Not wisely: the law banning political campaigning in social networks will not abolish campaigning
28 December 2020, 11:02
Analysts criticize the bill banning social media users from engaging in political campaigning, which the State Duma adopted in the first reading.

As you know, on Friday the State Duma adopted in the first reading a bill banning social media users from engaging in political campaigning. Only those who conclude an agreement with a candidate or party will be allowed to express their political preferences during the elections.

The bill was introduced by a group of deputies led by United Russia party Olga Sevastyanova, Alexander Khinshtein and Sergei Boyarsky and adopted by the Duma in the first reading. It assumes changes to the Federal Law "On Basic Guarantees of Citizens' Electoral Rights".

The innovation suggests allowing the CEC to contact Roskomnadzor in the event of illegal campaigning on the Internet, and Roskomnadzor - to block such materials. We are talking about federal elections, but it can be assumed that after the adoption of the law, regional laws will also be finalized.

This is a long-awaited law, - said from the parliamentary rostrum one of the initiators, United Russia deputy Sergei Boyarsky.

The bill makes a huge number of social network users violators in advance, - said the deputy Oleg Nilov from the "Fair Russia".

The deputies propose to involve Roskomnadzor in control over the election campaign. Violators will face fines of up to 20 thousand rubles for citizens and up to 500 thousand for officials. Moreover, the texts do not contain references to users of social networks and do not regulate in any way who can be punished. At the same time, fines for the illegal production and distribution of campaign materials are multiplying.

Of course, this event generated a lot of comments on social media. So, journalist Dmitry Kolezev writes in his channel:

“Another important legislative initiative, lost among the wave of recent days, is the change in the electoral legislation, which actually prohibits any“ illegal ”campaigning on the Internet, including, possibly, ordinary users.

Discussing the bill, deputies from opposition factions warned that election commissions could consider any publications of users as "illegal campaigning", up to a selfie from a rally of a party or a personal call to vote / not vote for a particular party or candidate..."

Political scientist Ilya Grashchenkov agrees with him:

“The State Duma is preparing a ban on political SMM (social media marketing, - editor's note). The lower house adopted in the first reading a bill banning social media users from engaging in political campaigning. Only those who conclude an agreement with a candidate or party will be allowed to express their political preferences during the elections. So far, the law is crude, it does not explain who the users of social networks are, what campaigning is and whether all this will affect messengers, primarily telegram channels.

On the other hand, it is obvious that active users of social networks are being squeezed out of politics, in addition, there is a parallel attack on YouTube and FB, as platforms controlled by the West. SMM from the pro-government forces: United Russia, New People, LDPR, etc., may also suffer, since it will be necessary to conclude an agreement with the party officially, with funds from the electoral fund, which means that most of the materials will be posted in white, marked "Advertising" and the corresponding ranking of the social network, which will entail readjustment of tools and a decrease in efficiency. In general, hello again to the good old APM: a newspaper, a poster, a calendar..."

But the experts of the Methodichka channel doubt the effectiveness of this bill.

“We can say that this is the recognition of the United Russia in the failure of campaigning projects in social networks and the recognition that the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the Liberal Democratic Party and other parties have succeeded much better in this. Campaigning in social networks, on YouTube is becoming the main one for the parliamentary opposition.

Let's say that campaigning without approval will be prohibited, and Roskomnadzor will require the social network to block posts and comments. Let's say that domestic social networks will force you to pre-moderate all posts mentioning parties. Candidates will be able to write freely only on their pages, campaigning will not go beyond their pages (political advertising, for example, in VK is prohibited). Will this make it better for the ruling party?

Campaigning, both popular and political, will go to chats and instant messengers. The CEC will not remove it from there. Since the campaign will be hidden from the open Internet, it will not be possible to respond quickly. For example, in Chechnya, for obvious reasons, it is not customary to write critically about politics on social networks, they write in chats - we will find out about this only if Kadyrov decides to punish someone in public. What the Chechens write about in chat rooms is unknown.

Campaigning in chats is a new level of trust. It's one thing when a campaign appears on the page of a little-known activist - it is seen by 50 people who quickly skip posts. It's another matter if these 50 people receive the same campaign from friends - they will read it more carefully. There is no such problem with videos either. Videos are quietly sent via WhatsApp bypassing YouTube.

There are a large number of elderly and rural residents who use only instant messengers every day. As long as the United Russia Party thinks that these residents are watching only correct campaigning on TV, they will receive campaigning for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation via chat rooms, and will believe it more. After that, people locally can unite in their "smart voting". The United Russia itself pushes to such a development of events".