Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
On Monday, November 13th, the term expired before which the RT and Sputnik TV broadcasting channels had to register as foreign agents on US territory. This was a requirement of the American Department of Justice. After registering as a foreign agent, our journalists will have to undergo a mass of unpleasant and humiliating procedures, to reveal their personal information on six sheets of a questionnaire. And this isn’t a one-off – they will be obliged to update information at a frequency of once every 6 months. Information materials must be coordinated with the US Department of Justice, with the disclosure of sources, and verification of the agencies can happen at any time and without any warning.
All of this makes further normal operation of the Russian channels on the territory of the United States almost impossible. Such actions are nothing more than the pressuring of the freedom of speech that western propaganda very much likes to boast about. This is censorship in its most shameful form, accompanied by wild animalistic fear in front of an alternative point of view on these or those events in the world. And if freedom of speech – in the understanding of the US authorities – looks like this, then we will act respectively. As much as such an approach sickens us, we can’t not respond to the boorish actions of our American colleagues.
It is precisely for this reason that the decision was made to make changes to the current legislation concerning media registered on the territory of another State or receiving funds or other means from foreign structures — State agencies or companies or from Russian companies with foreign financing could be recognized as foreign agents regardless of their organizational-legal form. The decision on recognising media as a foreign agent will be made by an authorized body of executive power. After this, the requirements of the relevant law will extend to such media agencies.
Here I consider it necessary to offer a reminder that the law on foreign agents was adopted in Russia in the summer of 2012, and today its action doesn’t extend to the media — this law mentions only NGOs. Its discussion and adoption caused back then rough outage in the liberal public. And a year later Kiev flared up. Ukraine choked from the smoke of the burning tires on Maidan, which was mobilised by foreign NGOs — they didn’t skimp on the project to shake up the country. And it was a matter, according to some information, of millions of dollars. So the opportunity to recognise media as a foreign agent is not only a mirror response to the actions of our American “colleagues”, but also a tool to protect our information space against external influences. This will allow to adequately react to external threats, and also will show in whose interests these or those media agencies work.
I will explain once again: nobody is going to thus restrain the freedom of social networks, as some wordsmiths wrote. The requirement of the law on designating printed and video materials will extend to the official pages of media on social networks, and nothing more.
But there is one important thing that I would like to draw attention to. On Tuesday, October 31st, hearings about so-called Russian interference in the American elections took place in the US Congress. Representatives of Facebook, Google, and Twitter were invited to the hearings. They were rightly reprimanded by congressmen for the fact that they allegedly pandered to “agents of Russian influence” by publishing political adverts on their websites. The logic of senators and congressmen was reduced to Russian advertisements on American social networks being a threat to their national security.
Lawyers of these companies, of course, tried to inform congressmen that they simply have no mechanism to filter advertising or to divide it into political and non-political, and data on advertisers is very limited. But the fear of the “Russian threat” appeared to be stronger. Congress already developed a bill, according to which any Internet websites with a monthly audience of more than 50 million users must provide to the competent authorities all information on their advertisements.
Well, perhaps the fears of American politicians bear in themselves rational grain. Perhaps, there is also sense for us to take heed of them for some time and to suspend advertising and paid-for promotion on the Russian segment of American social networks? Not for a long time — for half a year or a year. I hope that this time will be enough for the lawyers of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google to sort out their position concerning a mechanism for the recognition of political or dangerous advertising. This idea was discussed during work on amendments about the recognition of media as foreign agents. But it wasn’t included in the bill. For the time being.
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