Dangerous news: what the Russian authorities want from Internet companies

Dangerous news: what the Russian authorities want from Internet companies


A bill equating news aggregators to the media by the Deputy from “Fair Russia” Alexey Kazakov and Communist Alexander Yushchenko (both are members of relevant Duma Committee on mass media) submitted to the state Duma on Thursday, February 25. The bill requires that aggregators bore the same responsibility for the information, and the media. For this they have to obtain a special license from Roskomnadzor, which will maintain a register of news aggregators — as the Agency does in the case with the media.

The bill will be supported by the state Duma, assured the springs in the lower house of Parliament. The conceptual idea was laudable, said the head of the steering Committee Leonid Levin. The Committee plans to consider the bill at the meeting on Friday, 26 February, said one of the interlocutors .

Although the amendments introduced by the deputies, actually the document was developed in the presidential administration, says a source in the Duma. The Deputy of Yushchenko denies. In the Kremlin, familiarized with the idea of MPs, but consider that it requires careful consideration, said Wednesday the President’s press Secretary Dmitry Peskov. “There is no unambiguous position, there are different points of view,” he said.

The issue of regulating the work of news aggregators has been discussed for many years, but every time it manages to “roll up in working groups” representatives of the Internet industry, says close to the presidential administration the source . In recent years, the issue has become particularly relevant since the impact of news aggregators is growing, and their audience is already caught up with the TV, he adds.

It is unlikely that the activation issue is coming in September 2016 elections to the state Duma, he said: “If there were elections to the state Duma, would be the economic crisis, the election of the President and thousands of topics, which could be related to the bill”.

Against the bill supported the Deputy Ministry of communications Alexei Volin. With the Ministry of communications consulting in the design of the bill was conducted, and an opinion Volin parliamentarians took the statement as a private person, said the Cossacks and Yushchenko.

To slow down the passage of the bill in the future could have a negative opinion of the government (as a rule, bills that have received a negative review, rejected, or seriously refined), but this is “another matter”, said Yushchenko. “The government has a liberal stance, and job aggregators need to lead to moral and ethical standards,” he says.

Not all of the novellas in the new project eventually will be adopted: second reading of the bill will be changed, say MPs. According to one of the authors of the bill, the Committee “is prepared to discuss or modify the document in the future.”

What are news aggregators?

News aggregators — sections on major Internet portals that collect and sort the news connected online media- usually in automatic mode. As a rule, stand out the most cited and relevant news — they form the top of messages that can be shown on the main portal page, as in the case of a top “Yandex.News”.

News sections can bring the portals significant portion of the audience. So, according to TNS Web Index, monthly audience “Yandex.News” in January 2016 amounted to 23.3 million people daily — 6.2 million people. This is more than any news media in Russia: for comparison, at the website “RIA Novosti” (ria.ru) daily audience of TNS is estimated at 1.3 million people, (rbc.ru) — 1.6 million

According to the “Yandex”, daily news service the company indexes more than 100 thousand news reports from almost 7 thousand sources. The full text of the news aggregator does not publish — readers go directly to the websites of the partners, explained the representative of “Yandex” Ochir Mandzhikov.

The aggregators do not have the opportunity to check the accuracy and legality of information prepared by third parties, and, accordingly, cannot assume any responsibility for such information, he said.

And “Yandex.News” and Google News, the news chooses the robot based on programmed algorithms without human intervention (editor). “The list of news is generated solely by algorithms that take into account the total media interest in a particular topic” — confirms the representative of Google in Russia Svetlana Anurova. The mandzhikov emphasizes that the titles and snippets of lyrics media aggregators displayed in the source view.

According to sources the newspaper “Kommersant” in the state Duma, the authorities are interested in news aggregators about 30 major portals, including “Yandex”, Google, Mail.Ru, Rambler, “Vkontakte”, “Satellite”, Facebook, Twitter, etc. appearance in the list of social networks is explained by the fact that some of them are already testing their own news services in other countries. The Russian press service of Facebook has not responded to the request , the representative of “Vkontakte” Eugene Krasnikov declined to comment.

What threat, news aggregators see power?

Because of the size of the audience and ability to “exert a great influence on the formation of public opinion on various issues” (this is stated in the explanatory note to the bill equating news aggregators to media) additionally, the authorities want to regulate their activity and limit the range of possible owners.

As previously reported , shortly after the war in South Ossetia in summer 2008, then first Deputy head of the presidential administration Vladislav Surkov and the Deputy head of internal policy Department of the President Konstantin Kostin was interested in the principles of news aggregator “Yandex”. The former head of “Yandex.News” Lev Gershenzon noted that the officials did not like the presence of Georgian media in the issuance of the aggregator: it was that processed only messages from media outlets registered in Russia.

Sources in “Yandex” stated that the administration of then President not once raised the issue of aggregators, it is strongly advised in case of war, to translate the selection of news in manual mode and put in the top of the message only from government agencies. In the spring of 2014 after the annexation of Crimea “Yandex” has agreed to form a list of foreign and foreign-language news separately from the main list.
But in the summer of 2014, the state Duma Deputy from LDPR Andrei Lugovoi still sent to the state office of public Prosecutor the statement “for verification of “Yandex” as the media”. Then in a press there was information about the preparation of the first bill, which will equate news aggregators to media.

The Deputy from LDPR Vadim Dengin said “with search engines you need to do something” because the issuance of “Yandex” presented by foreign media, and “our expansion is coming to America” and “we must protect ourselves from the invasion in the minds of men”. He added that the state should know, “someone to claim if it shit writing” and that “[aggregators] how the media will facilitate the monitoring process”.

But the state office of public Prosecutor “not found in “Yandex” media signs”, and the bill was put on pause.

What I want to do with news aggregators?

News aggregators, according to the authors of the bill Kazakova and Yushchenko, should check out the distributed information, to prevent the emergence of public calls for terrorist activities and extremist materials, pornography, etc the media for violation of this policy twice during the year can lose their licenses.

Under the law subject to the aggregators, the attendance of which exceeds 1 million people a day. If the attendance of the resource in the next three months will be less than 1 million per day, it can be removed from the register of Roskomnadzor at the request of the owner or without a request if the attendance does not reach 1 million within six months).

Yushchenko believes that Facebook, Twitter and other social networks in its current form does not fall under the bill: “Facebook is now testing its news services. If they run, let them bring them into the framework of our legislation. We do not want anyone to limit, but everything should be under the law”.

The amendments require companies for six months to store common information and communications to provide access to it on request. The owner of the aggregator needs when appropriate order of the court or a competent authority within 24 hours to delete the disputed information. In case of refusal stipulated penalties: 100-200 thousand rubles for individuals and 0.8–1 million rubles for legal entities for the initial failure, 300-400 thousand rubles for individuals and 2-3 million rubles for legal entities for the repeated failure.

The failure of the General requirements for the registration of news aggregators as media will cost their owners 400 thousand rubles for individuals, up to 5 million rubles for legal entities.

In addition, MPs offer to extend the ban on foreigners owning more than 20% of business and news aggregators. It will be directly affected, such as Google News.

Will the aggregators to work under the new rules?

To solve prefiltration publications from the media, Yushchenko invited the aggregators to create a separate legal entity and hire editors. “Yandex” and Google is the top company, they have a turnover of billions of dollars. So for them is not difficult to register a separate legal entity to work in Russia and to create the editor, which will be moderated news”, — the Deputy considers.

However, in the statement of “Yandex” stated that “the requirements for owners of news aggregators in the bill appear to be excessive,” “not correspond to the actual capability” and “therefore unenforceable”. These requirements can be applied to any information on the website, such as user comments, SERPs, etc. — “as a result, the bill may conflict with already existing legislation, which regulates the liability of the owner of the resource for published information,” the statement said. In this situation, the service “Yandex.News” in its current form can not exist.

Anurova from Google refused to comment on the future of the news service in Russia.

The refusal of the news aggregators would be the most obvious solution for Internet companies, said earlier near the sources . Despite the fact that the services attract a large audience, they bring a little money: two experts from the advertising industry who purchase banners on the services of “Yandex” noted that the news section brings the search engine is not more than 1% of revenue.

“All of our resources registered as mass media. We meet all the requirements of the media, have sufficient expertise. If this bill still be adopted, we see no problems for its implementation”, — said the representative of the company “Rambler Internet holding” Sofia Ivanov. In her words, “Rambler.News” is also automatic aggregation: the robot gathers news from thousands of information sources.

What other businesses may be affected?

Adviser to the President on the problems of the Internet, the founder of LiveInternet German Klimenko said in 2014 that, if “Yandex.News” will close the Russian media can lose 7-8 million visitors a day, or up to 30% of the traffic. He confirmed that this fair today.

According to LiveInternet, the website ria.ru received from “Yandex.News” in February 2016 33.6% of visitors, lenta.ru — 13,5%, kommersant.ru — 36%, rbc.ru by 18.7%. Chief editor of “Kommersant” Sergei Yakovlev said that since the company is a newsmaker for its traffic “Yandex.News” very important: “We are interested in the aggregator continued to exist in the usual form”.

Press Secretary of the MIA “Russia today” (owner ria.ru) Xenia Rajewsky noted that the proportion of traffic that is attributable to the aggregators, in January of 2016 was about 50% of the total. The representative of the holding Rambler&Co (includes “Tape.ru”, “Газета.Ru”, “Bill”) was unable to comment on the impact the possible closure of “Yandex.News” news outlets.

Director of digital products of Independent Media (including editions of Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Vedomosti) Victor Saxon told me that on entertainment sites of the publishing house the transition from “Yandex.News” has always been minimal, and the website of the newspaper “Vedomosti” aggregator always been noticeable, but not a key source of traffic. Chief editor of the site Vedomosti.ru Catherine Derbilova added that news aggregators provide about a quarter of website visits, and a large share is accounted for by “Yandex.News”.

According to Saxon, serious media business the possible closure of the “Yandex.News” is not very threatening. “Serious media business is building your traffic not around aggregators, and around the standing audience, says Saxon. — For those who work on the coverage, and that most outreach sites, aggregators much more important, and the restriction of the action news aggregators will only lead to one thing — to reduce opportunities for official authorities to bring their point of view to the final consumer”.

Chief editor of the site Vedomosti.ru Catherine Derbilova said that news aggregators provide about a quarter of website visits, and a large share is accounted for by “Yandex. News”. “But most of the audience that comes to us from aggregators, reads us and from other sources (direct traffic, social sharing, etc.), so one cannot say that in the case of the disappearance of aggregators we won’t be able to restore this audience, explained Derbilova. — Another thing is that the aggregators is a showcase, a convenient entry point for our readers, and we would not want to lose her”.

With the participation of Elizabeth Surnacheva