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Misinformation in cyberspace

May 2022 – Since the war in Ukraine became the main subject of newspaper headlines, the amount of related misinformation spread online has reached new heights. As a result, several governments have adopted legislation that provides tools to combat the spread of misinformation

Below is an overview of legislation used to combat misinformation in the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia regions:

Bulgaria

  • It is worth noting that on 1 March 2022 the Bulgarian electronic media watchdog decided to suspend the distribution of TV channels “Russia Today” and “Sputnik” in line with the EU response to Russian military activity in Ukraine.

Croatia

  • On 27 February 2022 the Croatian National Cyber Security Authority ( “CERT”) warned of potential misinformation and hoax campaigns and urged citizens and companies to be careful.
  • It warned that the most common form of deceit is a link implying some exclusive news on the on-going war, but clicking on it causes the installation of malware.

Czech Republic

  • In the Czech Republic, the most notable action taken to tackle misinformation regarding the conflict in Ukraine was the ban of eight websites registered in the Czech Republic by CZ.NIC—the “.cz” domain administrator. This action was followed by a ban by mobile operators of six other websites in the Czech language that are registered abroad. As a result of the ban, the banned websites have become inaccessible. According to publicly available information, these actions were taken upon the government’s recommendation that all responsible institutions should prevent the dissemination of information serving to justify or endorse the current Russian military aggression against Ukraine. According to CZ.NIC, a consultation with Military Intelligence took place, during which Military Intelligence provided a list of websites that had been found to spread misinformation about the conflict to such an extent that they represented a threat to the national security.
  • The ban has raised numerous controversies. In the political field, the opposition criticised it as unacceptable censorship. In the legal field, there are concerns that such an action has no support in the applicable law; while freedom of speech is enshrined in the Constitution, there is no special legislation for its restraint with respect to the spreading of misinformation.
  • The lack of legal basis also means that the ban was made without any formal administrative act being issued. As a result, operators of the banned websites are prevented from appealing against the ban before administrative courts, and the only available remedy is a civil lawsuit. Furthermore, the ban has been criticized by the professional public for being in breach of the doctrine set by the European Court of Human Rights, under which a ban of an entire website represents an extreme measure, and the banning of the particular harmful article(s) should be preferred instead. According to some government’s representatives, a draft of new legislation that could fill in the apparent gap in the system is underway.

Hungary

  • Hungary’s state-owned television network’s news service launched a website on 1 March 2022 called “Fake news observer”.
  • The website has a layout similar to a blog, where news items are gathered from the news items published by the news service based on subject matter.
  • Regarding legislation, there has been no recent legislative initiatives regarding tackling misinformation.

Romania

  • On 24 February 2022, the Ministry of National Defence flagged as fake news messages regarding mandatory military service in the context of the Ukraine conflict and reminded Romanian citizens that mandatory military service was abolished by Law 395 of 16 December 2005 and can only be reintroduced in case of (i) a state of war, (ii) state of mobilisation or (iii) alert status.
  • On 11 March 2022, an online newspaper posted that a working group was created at the government level with the purpose of creating an IT platform that will scan the online press, but also blogs and social networks, to find "fake news", sources of misinformation and propaganda in the context of the conflict in Ukraine. The project has not yet been confirmed by the government, but according to reports, government representatives have stated that the project was initiated by civil society and that the government has not requested any specific deadline for the start of monitoring (Source).

Slovakia

  • Slovakia has introduced new legislation that addresses certain issues relating to the war in Ukraine, including the problem of spreading misinformation on the internet. The new legislation authorises the Slovak NSA to partially or fully block websites that spread misinformation. The Slovak NSA may block websites on its own initiative or upon the request of third parties, if the website contains misinformation that can cause the loss of confidentiality of data, compromise information security, restrict the operation of critical infrastructure, etc.

Turkey

  • The Law on the Regulation of Broadcasts via Internet and Prevention of Crimes Committed through Such Broadcasts regulates publications created in cyberspace. Accordingly, if content in cyberspace involves an attack against the personal rights of a specific person, this person may request to have the content removed from the publication or to block access. However, no specific regulation has been stipulated regarding misinformation in cyberspace.

Ukraine

  • Ukraine’s parliament introduced amendments to the Criminal Code of Ukraine related to the spreading of misinformation, which came into force on 16 March 2022. The justification, denial or recognition as lawful of Russian armed aggression against Ukraine, its occupation of Ukrainian territory, the glorification of occupiers, as well as the production and distribution of related materials are recognised as criminal offences in Ukraine. Such actions, depending on their severity, may be punishable with imprisonment for up to eight years.
  • The National Center for Operational and Technical Management of Telecommunication Networks, which manages electronic communication networks during martial law in Ukraine, has issued approximately 10 orders to electronic communication services and network providers to block hundreds of websites and autonomous systems (AS) used for spreading misinformation, fakes and retransmission of Russian TV channels that are banned in Ukraine.



For more information, please contact Lukáš A. Mrázik, Firm-wide Co-Head of Data & Cybersercurity, at .