08 февраля

Statement by the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation in connection with the violation of the principle of freedom of speech by global American Internet companies

The Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation strongly condemns the actions of global U.S. Internet companies, which for political reasons, without legal grounds and contrary to the norms of international law, restrict freedom of expression in social networks of the information and telecommunications network "Internet".

Developments after the presidential election in the United States of America have shown that the American Internet giants have embarked on a path of widespread use of censorship, contrary to the principles of democracy and the generally recognized right of citizens to seek, receive and disseminate information, as well as illegal blocking of alternative platforms. With the subordination of social networks to the political goals of the United States ruling circles, there is a threat of imposing on their users a one-sided, biased view of what is happening not only in this country, but around the world.

It is especially dangerous that restrictions on freedom of speech are imposed not in accordance with the law, but at the discretion of the heads of Internet companies, are arbitrary in nature, and have no legal basis. Thus, outside the legal framework, access to information is restricted to hundreds of millions of users of the information and telecommunications network "Internet," who are deprived of the right to freely express opinions that are not in conflict with the norms of the law.

It should be particularly emphasized that this is a question of monopoly control over the global network by Internet companies representing one country - the United States of America and closely connected to its government structures, which has the potential to assert the domination of one state over most of the world's online exchanges.

The illegal decisions of American social media executives have reaffirmed that the usurpation of control over the Internet is no longer a fictional threat but a reality. Such control is a powerful weapon that is used not only to attack civil liberties and freedom of speech in the United States itself, but can also be used against other countries, including to influence public sentiment, provoke domestic political crises, and influence the will of citizens and the outcome of elections.

Senators of the Russian Federation consider unacceptable the position of American Internet companies that severely censor undesirable political opinions while failing to fulfill their obligations to combat the dissemination of false information, including actively encouraging Russian citizens to participate in unsanctioned protests at high risk of contamination with a new coronavirus infection. Despite the fact that false information has been officially refuted several times, the heads of these companies purposefully refrain from removing or blocking this content.

Under these circumstances, the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation draws the attention of legislatures around the world to the relevance and necessity of developing national legislation to limit the omnipotence and arbitrariness of global Internet companies. We cannot allow the unilateral decisions of their leaders to replace the laws of sovereign states.

The regulation of Internet companies in their area of jurisdiction is a legitimate and inalienable right of every state to protect the information space and the right of citizens to freely receive and disseminate information. For Russia, such regulation, along with the development of its own social networks and Internet platforms, is an important and necessary part of ensuring national digital sovereignty.

The Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation calls upon the Secretary General of the United Nations, the Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the relevant monitoring mechanisms of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe This issue should also be taken very seriously at meetings of the United Nations General Assembly and its specialized Main Committees, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The recent threat of uncontrolled domination of global Internet companies makes it imperative to begin work on an international convention regulating their activities. The goal of this work should be to develop such generally accepted norms that would exclude arbitrary decisions and put global Internet exchanges on the solid ground of international law.

The World Wide Web must remain a space of freedom of speech and freedom of information, regulated by law, and not an instrument of the policy of one state and its closely related media monopolies.

Federation Council of the Federal Assembly

of the Russian Federation