Belarus Internet Users Will Have To Submit Phone Numbers To Comment Online

The Belarusian government has approved the procedure for pre-identification of Internet users on websites.

No comments without phone number since December 1, 2018.

The document, adopted by the Council of Ministers on 23 November, describes the procedure for the pre-identification on websites hosted in Belarus.

Comments in exchange for phone numbers

In particular, pre-identification starts with the registration on a website by concluding a user agreement. Owners of websites are responsible for the compliance of user agreements (including the list of personal data collected from a user) with the law.

The user agreement must contain a warning for users against posting messages and (or) materials with information whose dissemination is prohibited by the law.

The owner of a website activates a user’s account by an SMS message to the number submitted by the user or by any other IDs or technical means that allow the identification of the person. A user can use the same phone number only for one account on a website.

Users will be able to comment or post materials on websites only having logged into their accounts. A user can dissolve an agreement unilaterally at any moment.

Read also: Belarus’s democracy score drops in 2018 Freedom House ranking

One-year-long storage of personal data

According to the new law, owners of websites hosted in Belarus will have to store users’ personal data for the whole period of the user’s agreement and for one year after the agreement has been dissolved.

The personal data in question includes the name, gender, date, and place of birth, mobile phone number and e-mail, the information about all comments on the website by the user, IP address and other data.

Owners of websites are responsible for storing and protecting the data. They are obliged to disclose it on demand of law enforcement, Ministry of Information, tax authorities, and courts in the order established by the Belarusian legislation.

The document comes into force on December 1, 2018.

Read also: Police in Belarus make teen apologize for slapping a sculpture

“Laws should govern all life spheres, including the virtual”

The new order of user identification had been announced by the Minister of Information Alexander Karlyukevich earlier in November.

“A person wants to leave a comment. They send a message to a particular website and leave a phone number. And get a code from the website,” Karlyukevich described the procedure.

This is not intended to prevent people from expressing their views, the minister noted, but to assure that those views don’t contradict the laws of the country.

The Minister of Information said that online media should be subject to the same laws as other media: “Laws should cover the virtual part of our life”.

The planned change has been criticized more than once. For example, UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus Miklos Haraszti stated that the “amendments to the media law deprive Internet of anonymity, demand registration and close the last public space for free expression.

Source: TUT.BY