Ashot Gabrelyanov. Source: twitter.com/gabrelyanov
At midnight on Aug. 1, Russian social networks were flooded with a hashtag protesting the country’s recent ban on the use of curse words in media and the law requiring bloggers with more than 3,000 visits to their sites per day to register with the government. The online flashmob used a hashtag that combined an obscene reference meaning to the male sex organ and the name of the government agency responsible for the execution of the new law, the Federal Service for the Supervision of Communications (Roskomnadzor). Many of those participating in the demonstration used the hashtag in tongue-in-cheek posts. One blamed the use of the hashtag on a cat walking across the keyboard, posting the hashtag along with the phrase: "Just look what the kitten did to the letters."
The popular TV host and socialite Xenia Sobchak wrote in her twitter: "Don't be *****, prohibit the ***** itself, not the word that stands for it!"
Maxim Ksenzov, deputy head of Roskomnadzor, responded to the obscene comments addressed to his organization by wishing all the bloggers a good night and quoting one of the traditional Orthodox hymns known as Akathists: "God, forgive those who are not restrained in their words. Soften their hearts, give them reason and peace."
The following morning, Ksenzov posted again: "For those talented users who are cursing at Roskomnadzor, I wish to say that we will not examine and respond to the comments. Be cautious."
Happy to register
Despite the protests, bloggers and officials alike are preparing for the law’s enactment. More than 60 bloggers have already applied to register at Roskomnadzor, according to Russian news agency Itar-Tass, which quoted the agency’s press secretary Vadim Ampelonsky.
On Aug. 1 Roskomnadzor will send an invitation to seven of Russia’s most popular bloggers to register with the agency, according to the newspaper Izvestia. The paper says that the list includes writer Boris Akunin, opposition politician Eduard Limonov, travel photographer Sergei Dolya, actor Mikhail Galustyan, comedian Mikhail Zadornov, executive director of NewsMedia Holding Ashot Gabrelyanov, and blogger Dmitri Chernyshev.
The Russian State Duma approved the amendments to the legislation, which practically equate popular bloggers to mass media, in April. In addition to requiring the bloggers to register, the law prohibits them from publishing unsource material, promoting pornography and writing obscene comments and requires them to publish their full names and email addresses on the front page of their blogs. The law also allows bloggers to run commercial advertisements on their blog.
It is still unclear how this law will be enforced since there are millions of Russian bloggers and it would be almost impossible for the government to verify the identity of all the bloggers. Roskomnadzor says that verifications will be done only upon request.
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