A couple of weeks ago I was invited to the Civic Chamber of Russia in my capacity as a blogger person to give my Very Important Opinions on a draft law being considered by some United Russia deputies to create “cyber militia” tasked with identifying and reporting illegal/extremist content on the Internet.
I obviously consider that a very bad idea and I wrote about why here: https://akarlin.ru/2019/03/cybermilitia/
That text is also the formal written response that I sent off. I can’t be bothered recounting why here, but if you’re interested, just use Google Translate on the original article. Instead I am going to offer a couple of political observations.
Despite the imbecility of the law in question, and the thuggish attitudes of one of its sponsors (“Do you support terrorism and extremism?” he brusquely demanded to know of one of his critics), I nonetheless came away rather impressed with this institution, and rather hopeful about wider political trends.
1. They invite a wide array of relevant people – social media representatives, security people, journalists, bloggers, etc. – to offer their critiques on new laws. The proceedings are live-streamed on their website. Nor are the people they invite toadies. Regarding that cyber militia law in particular, I estimate around 80% of the participants were critical or very critical. While the Chamber’s function is purely consultative, I can barely imagine that law going ahead – at least in anything resembling its original form – after the all round public drubbing it received. In that sense, one might even consider it a sort of check and balance.
2. The critics included the Secretary of the Civic Chamber Valery Fadeev, who suggested it would be a slapstick repeat of the Soviets “chasing stilyagi” (a postwar youth movement that idolized Western popular culture, obviously to official disapproval) and explicitly compared it to the abuses under Article 282 (a “hate speech” law that was recently partially decriminalized). This is interesting, because Fadeev is also a senior official in the All-Russia People’s Front, a pro-Putin organization meant to coordinate relations between United Russia and Russia’s myriad NGOs and other associations.
This is all very encouraging as it suggests a rejection of sovokism at the (upper) levels of Russian society, both in and out of formal power – that is, at the levels that matter.