You’ll Be Jailed for A “Like” If Law on Total Web Surveillance Is Passed in Ukraine

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



In parliament, the bill on cyber crime was taken back for repeated first reading. Not many people paid attention to it, however if the deputies will vote for it, the security services will be able without hindrance, only by suspicion of a threat to national security or terrorism, to block Internet sites, to intervene in the electronic registers, to install covert video and audio monitoring at the suspect’s home, and rummage through their emails. Supporters of this law are convinced that in a condition of war such a document is necessary. Opponents have warned that this violates our rights.

It will be allowed to open mail

According to the bill, the SBU’s powers can be seriously expanded. In particular, there is a desire to provide access to electronic registers, databases – under the pretext of combating hackers – for the secret service. Also, the secret services will be able to reach the servers of service providers, and to educational and library collections. If during the inspection the agency will detect any threat to national security or suspected terrorism, access to the site and registers can be blocked and personal belongings of the figurants can be confiscated during the investigation. Moreover, websites can be blocked even without a court order. And Internet companies will be forced to access data about their subscribers.

Also, the authors of the bill want to legalize unspoken access of special services to the home of the suspect, to allow the conduct of surveillance and recording in their home or office, and dig through emails and correspondence.

It’s not yet time for such powers

The SBU still abstains from commenting, and in the Rada there is no single opinion, moreover even in the Committee that developed this bill. “It is important to understand how today databases and registries of the Ministry of Justice are protected from cyber criminals, after all for nobody it’s a secret, how raiders grab – just made changes to the registries. Now the process of electronic filling of declarations of officials and deputies comes, which will also be stored in a database, there is a risk that cyber criminals can interfere,” said the member of the Committee on legislative support of law enforcement Igor Mosiychuk.

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However, Deputy Head of the Committee Vitaly Kupry considers that the project is too controversial. “Passing of this law will allow the SBU to influence the content of sites. It is too early to give such powers, as confidence in the secret service is already undermined. There are fears that as a result it can turn into a witch hunt,” he says.

Social activists and experts are even terrified of the looming prospects. According to the head of the Council of the Association “Telecommunications Chamber of Ukraine” Tatyana Popova, the bill violates basic constitutional rights of citizens. “Firstly, it unnecessarily expands the SBU’s powers without justification. Secondly, in this project there is a draft according to which the National Commission for regulation of Communications and Informatization will decide which sites are to be blocked. It is fundamentally wrong, any block is only possible by a court decision,” said Tatyana Popova.

According to her, even the fact that someone can browse with his computer sites of an intimate nature can be considered as a threat to national security.

“Anyone can be accused of anything”

Lawyers say that a similar law had already been passed. “We have already made changes to the criminal code procedure – the judicial review is established. It is already possible to obtain within 24 hours the court’s permission to request data if the special services will provide the necessary access. But now everything leads to the fact that no one can control the intelligence agencies,” says the lawyer Rostislav Kravets.

“It’s called totalitarization of power,” adds the political scientist Andrei Zolotarev. “It may come back to haunt people that, after special services will have such powers, any undesirable person can be accused of anything without any proof. And this is already a threat to democracy,” ha ha.

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I recall that when, after a search at my home the secret services “friendly” spoke with me, they accused me, firstly, according to their monitoring, I received from 70,000 to 100,000 visitors, and “this is not freedom of speech, but imposing your point of view to millions”, and secondly, that I reference (in law, a conscientious re-poster doesn’t carry responsibility if their reference material that is not prohibited by court) on the enemy’s resources, in particular in a conversation, the newspaper “Vzglyad” was given as an example. When I reminded them about the law and about the fact that these sites are not forbidden or blocked in Ukraine, their response was that it is the “neighbouring” department that investigates these things, and that besides this it is annoying – you have to appeal to the court, which does not always give permission.

If such a savage “law” is passed, there will be no need for any evidence of incriminating material or any website in court, a person can be put in jail even for a “like”.

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