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United Russia proposes punishing its anonymous Internet critics

United Russia is preparing plans to mute its Internet critics by amending the recently adopted law criminalising libel, according the State Duma’s deputy speaker and UR member, Sergei Zheleznyak.

For now, anonymously posted snarky posts and tongue-in-cheek comments about the country’s ruling party, including the viral label “United Russia is a party of thieves and crooks” penned by anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, are not punishable.


“If a citizen mentions a specific party or a specific person, he or she could be liable for charges,” Zheleznyak said in an interview, published by Nezavisimaya Gazeta on Wednesday. “For example, if he or she mentions the ‘party of thieves and crooks’ naming which particular organization he or she means,” he added.

Work underway

The Duma deputy speaker said his colleagues had already started working on a document limiting “scathing, but baseless criticism of the authorities.” “The Internet is not to remain a lawless zone,” Zheleznyak said.

Developing legal tools to control the Internet could prove useful in officials’ bid to gain more power over the country’s media, but in this particular case it wasn’t worth the effort, experts said.

The cost and resources needed to find anonymous critics will inadequate to the result, Anton Korobkov-Zemlyansky, a Public Chamber member and head of the Legenda media agency, told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.

“If this bill passes, it will be a test of public opinion,” he said, adding that the prepared amendment is unlikely to be functional.

Little Duma support

Representatives of other parties in the Duma didn’t show much enthusiasm for the idea either, RIA Novosti reported.

Even nationalists from LDPR, who have been quite supportive for UR’s recent proposals dubbed “draconian” by other opposition-minded Duma deputies, are unlikely to vote for these amendments.

“Where will we find an army of those surfing the Internet and tracking bloggers who publish anonymous comments about the authorities?” Vladimir Ovsyanniko, the party’s Duma fraction first deputy head, said.

The deputy head of A Just Russia’s Duma fraction, Mikhail Yemelyanov, said the move was more of a “gesture expressing despair.” The Communist Party’s legal service head Vadim Solovyov also said his party was “vehemently opposed to that,” RIA Novosti reported.