Iron Digi-curtain: Belarus Nationalises Internet

by Guest Contributor    /  January 6, 2012  / No comments


The new legislation requires Belarusian Internet cafes to identify and keep track of all their clients as well as the web pages they visit. Photo: Bymedia.net

Written by Gavin Clarke of The Register

Europe’s last Stalinist state could fine citizens half their salary for visiting foreign websites in a domestic clamp-down on the internet.

The Republic of Belarus will this week introduce a law that imposes restrictions on visiting and/or using foreign websites by Belarus citizens and residents. Violation is punishable by fines up to the equivalent of $125.

That might not seem much in the west, but the average salary in Belarus was just $208 for 10 months last year, or 2.31m Belarus rubles. That means surfers could be being fined up to 49 per cent of their salary, or Br1.037m, just for something as simple as ordering a book on Amazon – the online retailer has no national physical presence inside the country.

Writer and open-source watcher Glyn Moody Tweeted here ordinary users and businesses could still access sites outside the country but online businesses must be in or registered in Belarus.

It is believed the new law – which comes into effect on 6 January – could see sites like Amazon close off access to their service to Belarus.

According to the US Library of Congress website, which reported the law here:

Suppose someone in Belarus buys something from Amazon, which is not a Belarusian company and thus is not registered in Belarus. The transaction is illegal, and so the Belarusian Attorney General would send a note to Amazon informing it that it is violating national law and might be sued. Probably Amazon would close access to its website for visitors from Belarus, because such visitors comprise a minor share of the company’s customers but the resultant legal troubles caused by the Belarusian government might create a major problem.

The new law requires that all companies and individuals registered as entrepreneurs use only domestic internet domains for online services, sales, and emails.

Business requests from Belarus cannot be served over the internet if the service provider uses an online service outside the country. The authorities – including the secret police – are authorised to investigate and prosecute violations.

Also, businesses who offer access to the internet – such as internet cafes – can be prosecuted and closed if users are found to be visiting sites outside the country and if their behavior isn’t “properly” identified, recorded and monitored. People allowing others to browse the web from a computer at their home are also subject to the restrictions.

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