In late February 2016 a draft law (No. 1004188-6) setting out to
regulate the operations of so-called news aggregators was submitted
to the State Duma. The reaction from the business community has
been mixed, and public authorities are taking different views too.
For example, German Klimenko, the Presidential Adviser on Internet
Development, supported the initiative, while Deputy Minister Alexey
Volin says the Ministry of Communications and Media does not
support the draft law, which equates news aggregators and
Since it's thought that the status of news aggregator owner
will apply to companies visited by over a million users in 24
hours, the new regulation may affect many big companies, including
Yandex, Mail.ru, Google, Rambler, VKontakte, Sputnik, Facebook,
Twitter and so on.
According to the draft law, besides owners of websites, the list
of entities covered by the new regulation may be much larger and
may also include "owners of software used for processing and
disseminating news information".
The draft law restricts foreign participation (including all
forms of control) in companies that own news aggregators, which
will be listed on a special news aggregators register. It's
worth noting that similar restrictions have already been introduced
for the media.
Since "news information" is a broad concept in the
draft law, the owner of any public information aggregator may be
subject to regulation. From a legal standpoint, such entities do
not generate information content by themselves, but create the
technical conditions for its processing and dissemination on the
Unlike network media, which provide access to their own news
sites, news aggregators use software which automatically scans
other sites, organises the information and creates a news feed
consisting of headlines and electronic links to sources (usually
other media). Therefore, they are not formally the disseminators of
such information; consequently the question of whether they can be
held responsible for any infringement of the new regulation has not
really been addressed.
Unlike information intermediaries, information aggregators in
most cases not only create technical conditions for disseminating
third parties' content, but also "pull" content from
other sources using technical means and software. So in fact the
owners of information aggregators can influence search results and
can also block certain information. The logic of the draft
law's initiators suggests that this is enough for such entities
to be held responsible.
In addition, the draft law stipulates liability conditions that
are more stringent than those applied to the media. For example,
the owner of a news aggregator will be held responsible for
disseminating information even if it is a literal or partial
reproduction of information and materials disseminated by the
media. There is an exception for the media in such cases because
they are exempt from responsibility if there is a direct
disseminator of information who can be held liable. According to
industry representatives, owners of news aggregators are not
technically able to track and monitor all of their news
It should be noted that contrary to the concept of
"unavoidable fine" currently under discussion, the draft
law provides for the imposition of monetary fines not for the
dissemination of information in itself, but for failing to remedy
an infringement of the law on the basis of a notice from
Roscomnadzor. And the amount of the fine is considerable: up to RUR
200,000 for private individuals and up to RUR 1 million for legal
entities. In view of the large volume of different information on
the Internet, the risk of being held liable will be rather high, so
companies will need to work out a mechanism for timely compliance
with Roskomnadzor orders well in advance.
Clearly, the regulation of news aggregator owners (as well as
owners of information aggregators in general) is a matter that
needs to be worked out in detail. Several large companies have
already expressed their concern about the new initiative.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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