This week, Russian lawmakers proposed to restrict foreign ownership in online video services; Russia have collaborated with Chinese authorities to work on “Red Web”; Azerbaijan criminalized defamation of the Ppresident online; Belarus government grows into monopoly on fixed broadband market; Kazakhstan will require all foreigners to get fingerprinted; Georgia plans to ban online lending.

1. Russian lawmakers proposed a new legislation that would restrict foreign ownership of digital audio-visual services in Russia to 20% of a given company as of July 2017. The draft law, submitted by legislator Andrei Lugovoi, known for his security service background, and Shamsail Saraliyev, stipulates restricting primarily online video services.

The law will not only affect foreign companies like Netflix, but also domestic digital companies such as Yandex and Mail.Ru Group, which have foreign-owned stakes exceeding 20%.

2. Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs of Russia launched a new monitoring system to track interethnic hate speech on social media. Currently, agency’s experts work on a set of recommendations and quick response mechanisms to potential conflicts.

Deputy head of the agency, Mikhail Ipatov, said social media allow to identify online bullies faster once the monitoring system registers aggression against certain nationality. Following detection, specialists contact local authorities, police, and diasporas to involve them in conflict resolution.

DR comments: Based on recent attempts by Twitter to reduce cyber-bullying, two key problems emerge with monitoring hate speech online: 1) the sheer volume of messages to process, which requires vast resources, and 2) the difficulty that exists with ‘keywords’ based approach. As Twitter found, determined users adopt new words or symbols to circumvent an official list of triggers. In addition, the approach that is proposed by Russian authorities, while commendable in theory, requires a cadre of especially trained community-based professionals, and be linked with the education system, in order to be successful.

3. Government of Russia have collaborated with the Chinese authorities to work on its internet filtering and control system, known as “Red Web”, with Russian officials incorporating some key aspects of the China’s Great Firewall. New system will put internet and its users under greater state control and facilitate handling of large amount of users’ data that the ‘Yarovaya Laws’ requires the internet and telecom providers to store for periods of up to six months.

4. Azerbaijan’s parliament criminalized defamation of the President online. Although defamation over the internet was criminalized three years ago, the new amendments made separate mention of the President. With almost all traditional media strictly controlled by the government, social media have given people an opportunity to voice criticism. Now any criticism of the President online, including comments and posts under fake names and accounts, can be qualified as defamation punishable by fines of up to $860 or imprisonment for up to three years.

5. Belarus fixed broadband market will be carved between state-owned Beltelecom and three private operators, velcom, MTS, and life:)

Last week, the mobile operator velcom acquired the country’s largest private internet provider Atlant Telecom. And, earlier in 2016, Turkey-based mobile operator Turkcell that operates in Belarus under the brand name life:) announced its plans to offer fixed broadband connection too.

The changes will increase the government’s monopoly on the internet. At the moment, the government owns 51% shares in MTS, and 20% in life:), besides 100% in Beltelecom.

6. Kazakhstan’s parliament approved in the first reading the bill on obligatory fingerprinting of foreigners as an additional anti-terrorism measure. However, since the implementation of the law is technically challenging, it will not come into effect until 2021.

7. Georgian government passes toughened regulations for online lending companies as a measure to protect the borrowers. “Business model of online lending companies doesn’t bring any value to the state budget. Moreover, it carries risks for the people who suffer from extortionate interest rates,” said minister of finance, Dmitry Kumsishvili.

According to the survey by ACT consulting company, 64% of Georgian population favor the ban on online lending.

8. It’s been six months since the last .tj domain was registered in Tajikistan. The state registrar, the Center for ICT at the President’s administration, has never given any explanation for the discontinuation of the service or when the domain registration will resume. This has seriously harmed a largely underdeveloped ICT market in Tajikistan and hinders further development of the country.