You say it couldn’t happen here. I hope not. But this New York Times account of efforts worldwide to suppress Internet voices is yet another illustration of the power of words and ideas. They are, in the final analysis, more powerful than guns. Actions in Russia by Vladimir Putin, particularly, are of interest.
Widely known as the “bloggers law,” the new Russian measure specifies that any site with more than 3,000 visitors daily will be considered a media outlet akin to a newspaper and be responsible for the accuracy of the information published.
Besides registering, bloggers can no longer remain anonymous online, and organizations that provide platforms for their work such as search engines, social networks and other forums must maintain computer records on Russian soil of everything posted over the previous six months.
“This law will cut the number of critical voices and opposition voices on the Internet,” said Galina Arapova, director of the Mass Media Defense Center and an expert on Russian media law. “The whole package seems quite restrictive and might affect harshly those who disseminate critical information about the state, about authorities, about public figures.”
American politicians have their repressive ways, of course. Some of them have been known to refuse to provide publicly financed services to information outlets they don’t like. Others have endeavored to undercut media outlets’ economic viability by withholding public business and encouraging allies to do the same. Some throw up barriers, even force lawsuits by people seeking to obtain public information. They refuse cameras in public meeting rooms. They dodge questions. They spread malicious gossip about press enemies.
And still, information — like water — generally finds an outlet. The computer and the web have created instantaneous worldwide publications. Powerful stuff. The despots hate it.