On June 21, 2018, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine included draft law “On Introducing Changes to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine Concerning Counteraction to Threats to the National Security in Information Sector” No. 6688 in the agenda. This draft law introduces a mechanism of temporary blocking of websites, obliges providers to install technical tools for access restriction and stipulates high sanctions, including criminal responsibility, for failure to comply with blocking requirements. Lawyers and human rights defenders emphasize that the draft law is an attempt at restricting human rights on the Internet and at pressuring Internet providers.
Provisions of draft law No. 6688 violate the national and international legislation and effectively create conditions for Internet censorship. For instance, the reason for blocking of web resources is “dissemination of information used for commission of grave or particularly grave crimes through the web-resource”. This phrasing is extremely vague and contradicts the principle of legal certainty, creating potential space for abuses. Besides, even though the draft law establishes the court blocking mechanism – at the decision of an investigative judge or the court – in individual cases, access restriction for the duration of under 48 hours is possible at the motion of the prosecutor or investigator. Furthermore, the draft law does not establish the maximum term of temporary blocking in all other cases.
FreeNet Ukraine Coalition urges MPs not to vote for the aforementioned draft law, because it fails to comply with fundamentals of human rights as well as to engage the public and human rights defenders to discussions around initiatives aimed at regulation of the Internet.
Almost a year ago, on July 13, 2017, the draft law was not included in the parliamentary agenda following public pressure on the mater. Then, human rights defenders and representatives of the media community urged MPs to withdraw the draft law as one which threatened free development of the Internet in Ukraine and created the risk of out-of-court blocking of internet resources. “Introduction of the suggested standards may lead to curtailing of citizens’ rights and freedoms and to persecution of political opponents irrespective of the national security and defense,” the statement said. Then-Ombudsman of Ukraine Valeria Lutkovska has also said that draft law 6688 “entrenches human rights and undermines the very essence of the right for freedom of expression”.
As a reminder, the FreeNet Ukraine Coalition has recently published a legal analysis of President’s Order No. 126/2018 in part concerning blocking of websites and addressed the Presidential Administration and the National Security and Defense Council with the demand to rescind it.
The FreeNet Ukraine Coalition was created in May of 2018 in response to the authorities’ constant attempts to restrict the Internet, block websites and control Internet without regard to the rule of law. The Coalition has united human rights organizations and experts to ensure observance of human rights standards on the Internet: Human Rights Platform, Digital Security Lab Ukraine, Human Rights Information Center, Crimean Human Rights Group, Freedom House Ukraine, Nadiia Babynska and Mykola Kostynyan.