Disinformation websites are in trouble

The forthcoming law against disinformation is taking a concrete shape. According to the Interior Ministry, the current version of the law envisages shutting down websites whose content threatens the state’s national security.

Typically, these are sites spreading pro-Russian propaganda. Failure to comply could result in a fine of up to hundreds of thousands of euros.

A block and an hour

The proposal is aimed at limiting the reach of such articles. It will allow the authorities to block a problematic page within a few hours in extreme cases or within an hour in severe cases. The internet connection provider or hosting service will take care of this.

According to the legislators, this will not deny the right to create and disseminate information but will limit its reach. The law does not entitle the latter but limits the effects of disinformation. Such shutdowns are to be decided directly by the Interior Ministry after assessing the site’s content and consulting with state security forces.

Another issue is the technical implementation of such blocking. The proposal should also address how an operator who would have to shut down a given website could defend such an order.

In its proposal, the Interior Ministry recommends coercive fines of up to CZK 100,000 should be levied for non-compliance with the order.

During the initial drafting of the bill, experts also debated whether the state should also punish specific disseminators of misinformation. This is not envisaged in the current version.

According to experts at the ministry, it is complicated to legally delineate what constitutes disinformation and whether it is a threat to state interests.

The new version of the law 

According to Media and Disinformation Commissioner Michal Klíma, a second version of the law is currently being drafted.

“The (original) law was prepared in June, then rejected, and the ministry is now working on a new version, which should be ready in a month. I will get to it only in the version that will be ready for comments,” he said, adding that the preparation of the law is taking place in a non-public process.