Russia's parliament has advanced strict new internet laws allowing the authorities to jail or fine those who spread fake news or disrespect government officials online.
Under the proposed laws, which still await final passage and presidential signature, people found guilty of spreading "indecent" posts that demonstrate "disrespect for society, the state, (and) state symbols of the Russian Federation," as well as government officials such as President Vladimir Putin, can face up to 15 days in administrative detention for some offenses, CNN reported.
Private individuals who post "fake news" can be hit will small fines of between $45 and $75, and legal entities face much higher penalties of up to $15,000, according to draft legislation.
The anti-"fake news" bill – which passed the Duma, or lower house of parliament, on Wednesday, according to an official legislative tracker – also compels internet service providers to block access to content "which offends human dignity and public morality."
It defines fake news as any unverified information that "threatens someone's life and (or) their health or property, or threatens mass public disorder or danger, or threatens to interfere or disrupt vital infrastructure, transport or social services, credit organizations, or energy, industrial, or communications facilities."
The new regulations are the latest step towards greater censorship of the Russian internet, once a relatively free-wheeling network where criticism of the government was, if not common, at least tolerated. Its passage comes ahead of an anti-censorship rally to be held in Moscow on Sunday, against a raft of new restrictions on the country's internet.