Russia’s largest internet search engine, Yandex, has come under fire from the State Duma, which is preparing a bill to oblige the firm to register its news aggregator - Yandex News - as media. If the bill is approved, Yandex News would be subject to Russia’s mass media laws, which would make it accountable for verifying the accuracy of articles and ensuring that no “propaganda” in support of electoral candidates is published.
The bill was proposed by State Duma Deputy Andrey Lugovoy, who recently appealed to the prosecutor general to check Yandex’s compliance with Russia’s mass media laws. Yandex’s publication of analytical news material, including articles from leading Russian and foreign media, is a cause for concern according to Lugovoy, who echoed President Vladimir Putin’s thoughts on the matter.
During a media forum in St Petersburg last month, Putin highlighted the company’s dual function as a news portal and popular search engine, claiming that its power to shape the views of “tens of millions of people a day” means it needed to obtain a media licence. At the conference, Putin accused Yandex of being under foreign influence, claiming that despite its inception as a Russian project, a number of Europeans and Americans have since made their way into its governing body.
The bill’s development is one of many new legal developments in Russia which has seen the Kremlin increase its control over the media and freedom of expression in the country. Since the mass media laws came into effect earlier this month, bloggers with more than 3,000 hits a day are now subject to the legislation, requiring them to register their details with media watchdog Roskomnadzor or face a penalty.