March 18, 2019 / 3:20 PM / in 2 months

Russia's Putin signs law banning fake news, insulting the state online

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with members of the public in Simferopol, Crimea March 18, 2019. Yuri Kadobnov/Pool via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin has signed into law tough new fines for Russians who spread what the authorities regard as fake news or who show “blatant disrespect” for the state online, an official portal for legal information showed on Monday.

Critics have warned that the legislation could create a mechanism for state censorship, but lawmakers say the new measures are needed to combat false news reports and abusive online comments.

The legislation grants authorities the power to block websites if they fail to comply with requests to remove information that the state deems to be factually inaccurate.

Under the new law, individuals can be fined up to 400,000 rubles ($6,100) for circulating false information online that leads to a “mass violation of public order”.

People who show “blatant disrespect” online for the state, the authorities, the public, the Russian flag or the constitution can be fined up to 100,000 rubles under the new legislation. Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to 15 days.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn

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