Russia just passed a new law requiring blogs, that have 3000 or more visitors per day, to register with the Russian government. The authors will have to sign the posts with their real name, and if bloggers fail to make their real name visible, the law would require hosting providers and owners of blogging platforms to provide the information. In parallel the Russian government is launching a program to scan Russian websites with special software to find obscenities in online written material.
According to RT, state-registered bloggers will be banned from posting “extremist and terrorist information, propagating pornography or violence, and disclosing state or commercial secrets. The bloggers will be obliged to verify the information they post, delete false reports and abstain from disclosing people’s personal data. They will also be banned from using obscene language.”
The idea that Putin cares enough about online cursing to write a new law and build a massive web spider to track down infringements stretches credulity. A more plausible explanation is that this measure is designed to allow the Russian government to build the infrastructure to monitor political speech, and prevent the U.S. from attempting to launch a synthetic color revolution within their borders. After what happened in Ukraine, and after the Cuba “Twitter” scandal it should be obvious that this is a real threat. Forcing tiny bloggers to register with the government though is the wrong approach. It isn’t just totalitarian, it’s bad PR. It provides ammunition to those working to demonize Russia. This law will have a knock on effect for Russian foreign policy as well because it damages the credibility of Russian media outlets, and often these outlets are the only ones willing to broadcast information that counters NATO propaganda.
The U.S. government would love to have legislation like this, and they’ve been quietly working behind the scenes to lay the framework for the regulation of online media, but they are much more careful about the PR aspect. They pretty much have to be. The American people, though they’ve already lost most of their constitutional protections, are still willing to fight for a few things. Sure the military can now detain anyone indefinitely without trial (thanks to the NDAA), and the NSA is monitoring everyone’s communications indiscriminately, but you had better not touch the internet. The mass resistance to SOPA demonstrated that principle pretty well.
The fact that the Russian government was able to pass this law without a backlash illustrates just how drastically cultures can differ psychology. It also demonstrates just how similar the psychology of governments are.