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Belarus cuts itself off from the web

Kevin Murphy, January 3, 2012, 08:56:28 (UTC), Domain Policy

You think the Stop Online Piracy Act is bad policy? Be grateful you’re not Belarusian.

The former Soviet state has reportedly banned its citizens from accessing foreign web sites, in a law that becomes effective later this week.

“Registered” entrepreneurs in the country will also be forced to use domain names registered in Belarus (presumably .by), according to a report from the Library of Congress.

Users accessing foreign sites face misdemeanor charges and fines, while operators of WiFi hotspots, such as cafes, face the shutdown of their businesses for violations, according to the report.

The law, as reported, appears to be so insanely Draconian I can’t help but wonder if the Library of Congress has got its facts wrong.

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Comments (4)

  1. George says:

    If you had read the Library of Congress report more carefully, you may not have made the broad and incorrect statement above.

    The law “merely” requires businesses offering services in Belarus to register a “.by” domain name and use e-mail addresses and websites associated with it.
    This is like requiring business to have a local presence or address; not uncommon in the bricks-and-mortar world, so why not?

    It does NOT limit Belarus citizens to freely surf the internet although the law also makes provisions to block “objectionable content” (think child pornography). Although this is “censorship of the internet”, we see this type of thing popping up more in legislation. The effect we’ll have to see.

    It also does not limit business to have additional domain names (or addresses) on different TLD’s.

    The “hotspot issue” may be due to wording of the law, certainly not the spirit of it. I doubt it will affect any of these types of venues significantly.

    George/

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      I think I read it plenty close.

      The LOC report says:

      “The Law requires that all companies and individuals who are registered as entrepreneurs in Belarus use only domestic Internet domains for providing online services, conducting sales, or exchanging email messages.”

      and

      “Additionally, the Law states that the owners and administrators of Internet cafés or other places that offer access to the Internet might be found guilty of violating this Law and fined and their businesses might be closed if users of Internet services provided by these places are found visiting websites located outside of Belarus and if such behavior of the clients was not properly identified, recorded, and reported to the authorities.”

  2. George says:

    Mr. Murphy,

    I don’t want to be a dick, but your quote contains this restriction to the applicability: “who are registered as entrepreneurs”.

    This means, since you don’t seem to be able to make the distinction, that businesses are required to operate under a .by domain when doing business in Belarus. They probably also need to have a Belarus (postal) address and “local” phone number. How quaint.

    The second paragraph is ridiculous. Just because it is written somewhere doesn’t make it true. How it made it into a LOC report is baffling.

    In Europe ISP (and Mobile operators) are required to keep “traffic” data for its users to aid in criminal investigations. The new Belarus law requires operators of Hotspot/Internet cafes etc. to keep track of users and client devices that use this type of “shared internet access”.

    You and I may not like that, but this is probably “just” keeping track of MAC addresses from the AP logs.

    George/

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      No dickishness taken.

      The word “only” in “use only domestic Internet domains” suggests that it will not be legal to use a non-.by domain if you’re a Belarusian entrepreneur, contrary to what you said in your first comment.

      Now, the LOC may be wrong (as I said in the post) but I wasn’t pretending to do any original reporting here.

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