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Yandex Slams Russia's "Right to be Forgotten" Law

Yandex claims the law, if approved, would be a violation of Russian citizen's constitutional rights as it would impact their ability to search, access and retrieve information online.

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Yandex, Russia's leading search engine provider, has said it's "strongly opposed" to the country's own version of the "Right to be Forgotten", a law that's been proposed by deputies at the State Duma. The law would entail Yandex to apply censorship to its search services, which would be a violation of Russian citizen's constitutional rights.

Interax says the proposed bill would be somewhat similar to the "Right to be Forgotten" law in the EU, to which Google was also strongly opposed. But Yandex was critical of the implementation of the draft law, saying that if it is passed, it would effectively force search providers to perform the duty of government agencies, such as determining the accuracy and legality of information dissemination and the statute of limitation with regard to criminal prosecution, the company said in a statement.

"The mechanism proposed in the draft law undermines the basic principles of the placement and retrieval of information on the Internet," a spokersperson for Yandex told Interfax. "It effectively requires search engine providers to search for information related to citizens, but there is no requirement for applicants to indicate a specific reference they want deleted."

Yandex added that deleting content from its search results would likely be ineffective in many cases anyway. "Information will remain online and will still be distributed in other ways, for example through social media," the company said.

According to Interfax, Yandex believes the proposed law would violate the constitutional right of citizens to search, access and retrieve information. It warns that if the law is passed, a wide array of public information will be made difficult to access, and create fertile ground for abuse.

The law would also heavily impact news and media sites, which will not be accessible through search services. Media site owners will be unable to challenge the exclusion of links to their sites from search engines, allowing their competitors to abuse the situation, Yandex said.

"It's a paradox that the bill requires the removal of links containing reliable content, even though the content will remain on the sites themselves," the company said.

Yandex is the largest search provider in Russia with a 57.1 percent market share, Interfax said, citing data. Google, which ranks second with a 35 percent market share, declined to comment on the bill.

The proposed bill was submitted by a group of State Duma deputies from opposing factions, Interfax said. The law would limit the dissemination of information about Russian citizens through the Internet, if that information is "misleading or distributed in violation of the law".

According to the bill, search engine providers will be obliged to remove such links, and if they refuse to do so, applicants can challenge this decision in court.

In May 2014, the European Union adopted a similar law (in spite of Google's strong opposition), obliging search engines to remove links to "useless", "incorrect", or "outdated" information if asked to do so.

Image credit: Za bor architects

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