An amendment to Kazakhstan’s internet law will allow officials to block internet access to networks without a court order. Article 41-1, “Procedure for suspension of networks and/or means of communication,” will amend Kazakhstan’s “On Communications” law.
The Posecutor General or Deputy Prosecutor General will have the authority to instruct an authorized body to shut off a network or means of communication or suspend service communications. This includes internet websites, internet connections and cellular phone connections. The Prosecutor General will be able order the shut-off of these communications without a warrant and the authorized body will have hours to command the service provider, who in turn will have three hours to comply by taking down the offending material or means of communicating the material.
Previous to the amendment, Kazakhstan authorities needed a warrant to block offensive material. Also previously, the scope of material considered illegal was narrower.
Article 41-1 provides for the banning of social networking sites and services such as WhatApp, VKontakte, M-Agent, Twitter and Skype if there is found to be promotion of or calling for “extremist or terrorist activities, riots, or participation in public activities” in violation of established order. The Article also targets information violating election law.
Kazakhstan’s Senate stated the reason for passing the bill was to combat the “problem of dissemination of false information” that can cause substantial harm to the society.
Several peices of legislation have been drafted in Kazakhstan recently as a result of malignant social actions carried out through social media. Earlier this year, Kazakhstans’s national currency suffered a 20 percent devaluation. Rumors were spread on WhatsApp that three major banks were in danger of bankruptcy. The messages warned Tenge citizens to “urgently withdraw” savings from the banks. As a result, these banks lost millions of dollars. When the banks went to police with their problem, they found that there was no legislation in Kazakhstan to deal with the spreading of false rumors.
In another case, rumors spread about a dam in Taraz–said to have broken–sent citizens packing late at night. Separatist calls and rumors about Russia’s security adequacy at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games have also been cited as reasons for several of the newly drafted legislation.
The parliament in Kazakhstan has been working on new and revised legislation since last fall. Other legislation in the works includes a law that would allow a maximum punishment of 10 years for making “illegal and unconstitutional calls for changes to the territorial integrity of the Republic of Kazakhstan,” and another law that would punish those who spread rumors that may disturb the public order with a maximum penalty of 12 years incarceration. The drafts of these laws also target communication media, particularly the internet.
Some recent legislation, such as that dealing with separatism, has been said to be at least partially a reaction to the events in Crimea.
Article 41-1 has passed both chambers of Kazakhstan’s parliament. It is currently waiting for President Nursultan Nazarbayev to apply his signature. The bill is expected to pass within a few days.
By Day Blakely Donaldson