Sunday, August 04, 2013
Russian anti-gay speech law recalls fights in US over COPA and CDA
The latest spin on the much reported anti-gay law recently passed in Russia is that it primarily targets speech about homosexuality (that is, "nontraditional" sexual behavior outside of heterosexual marriage) made in front of minors. While much attention has been made of the likely effects of the law in the physical world (especially in view of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi), as with practically shutting down gay pride events as they occur in western countries, an obvious question is, what about the Internet.
As I’ve noted on the LGBT blog, it appears that the law is motivated by Russia’s low birthrate, and panders to the scientifically dubious (at best) notion that teenagers and minors (especially male) are likely to become less interested in having children and raising families if they learn about “gay values”.
The obvious question is, how would it apply to the Internet. In structure (although not exactly purpose) it sounds as though it could work a bit like COPA or even the CDA. If a blog posting was published in a place where minors could find it (through search engines), that would make it illegal and make its author liable to arrest and prosecution. This could be very serious for foreign guests (not necessarily just for the Olympics) who have written pro-gay blogs from home (or even blogs critical of the Russian government and Putin) which can be accessed by the Internet inside Russia and are reachable by search engines, unless Russia has already blocked the blogs. Maybe someone planning to visit Russia could block the sites or blogs himself in Russia before going to the country; it’s something that might need to be looked into. It could become a serious problem when employers send contractors to Russia (or to other anti-gay countries like Uganda).
ABC News had reported that, before the Russian DUMA passed the law, some Russian cities or autonomous regions had already passed similar legislation. St. Petersburg, one of the most popular cities because of the museums and convenient access from Poland and Finland, is one such city.
A few years ago, similar anti-gay sentiment had been reported in Poland, much of it motivated again by low birth rates.
There's something telling about a government's viewing all public speech as "propaganda".