Russia wants to ban social media sites discriminating against Russian news outlets

Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube at risk of getting blocked in Russia for "discriminating" against Russian news sites like Russia Today, RIA Novosti, and Crimea 24.

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Vladimir_Timofeev, Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Russian government is working on a new law to block foreign social media sites inside Russia's territory as repercussions for "discriminating" against Russian news outlets operating abroad.

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Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are specifically mentioned in "explanatory notes" (Word document) accompanying the new draft bill, submitted last week for debate in the Russian Duma (state parliament).

Russian lawmakers say that since April 2020, state authorities had received complaints from editors of Russian news sites that had their social media accounts censored on the aforementioned sites.

"Media outlets such as Russia Today, RIA Novosti, Crimea 24 were censored. In total, about 20 acts of discrimination were recorded," Russian lawmakers said.

The acts of discrimination referenced in the draft bill's notes refers to rules introduced at Twitter and Facebook this year, and at YouTube in 2018.

The three sites have been showing special labels on the profiles of state-affiliated news agencies and have been reducing their visibility on their sites by removing their content from recommendation algorithms.

Russian lawmakers called these rules "unreasonable restrictions" that "discriminate against materials from the Russian media," and described them as "violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms of Russian citizens."

The new draft bill plans to give the Russian Prosecutor General's Office and the Foreign Ministry the power to ban sites that enforce these restrictions on Russian news sites.

Once a decision is made, Russia's telecommunications watchdog, the Roskomnadzor, would be called upon to enforce the ban through its national site blacklist system — which is already banning LinkedIn since 2016.

On Monday, the Duma's legal office found no issues with the law's text and gave the go-ahead for further discussions and ratification.

Also, on the same day, the Russian government, through Roskomnadzor, also announced the start of new proceedings against Google for failing to censor up to 30% of "dangerous" content from the search results shown to Russian citizens.