Belarusian Internet users stand to lose online anonymity

Soon anyone who wants to comment on the news on a Belarusian site will have to provide their mobile phone number. Authorization of commentators via phone number and the possibility of transferring personal data to special services are among the innovations prepared for users of Belarusian websites by authors of amendments to the Law on Mass Media. Amendments to the law will come into force already in December.

The mechanism of providing your phone number to the media outlet is laid out in the resolution of the Ministry of Information, which will soon be approved. The power ministries welcome the elimination of anonymity in the Belarusian segment of the Internet.

Ordinary citizens are much less enthusiastic about the prospects of providing their personal data to the third parties.

Media outlets are also not happy about the innovation. They will have to store user data and “if necessary,” pass it on to the siloviki. The forums of TUT.BY alone is daily browsed by about 150 thousand people. Soon this figure will decrease, experts predict.

The requirement to register on forums with the help of a mobile telephone number is not the only restriction of freedom on the Internet, provided for by the amendments to the Law on Mass Media. Other changes include:

  • requirement for registration of Internet media
  • the ability to block social networks
  • identification of forum users
  • transfer of personal data to special services

They will not only cause financial damage to Belarusian sites and lead to an outflow of the Belarusian audience to Runet. They will damage the image of Belarus as an IT-country.

Alyaksandr Papko,