NEW YORK—The recent introduction of a Russian law to tackle “fake news” raises serious concerns that it will be wielded instead against content the Kremlin finds inconvenient, and result in even greater restrictions on free expression online, said PEN America in a statement today.

Last week the governing party, United Russia, proposed a bill which seeks to impose a fine of approximately $800,000 on social media companies that do not remove “inaccurate” information within 24 hours of being notified of its existence. It has passed one of three votes in the Parliament.

“Efforts to enforce third party liability always raise difficult questions from a free expression perspective, even when the motive is to tackle legitimately fraudulent news and information,” said Polina Kovaleva, PEN America’s Eurasia Project Director. “However, in the Russian context of increasing restrictions on freedoms of expression and the press, and where the label of ‘fake news’ is used to discredit any coverage the Kremlin dislikes, there is little question that this bill risks becoming yet another mechanism for censorship.”

PEN America spoke out earlier this year on Russia’s attempts to shut down the messaging app, Telegram, and our 2016 report, Discourse in Danger: Attacks on Free Expression in Putin’s Russia documented the Russian government’s extensive campaign to control information and expression in the country.   

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Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: agasparian@pen.org