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9 Things the Russian Government Says Are “Gay Propaganda”

Gay rights activists kiss as they are detained by police officers during a gay rights protest in St. Petersburg, Russia, 12 October 2013, photo by Jordi Bernabeu Farrús, CC 2.0.

Gay rights activists kiss as they are detained by police officers during a gay rights protest in St. Petersburg, Russia, 12 October 2013, photo by Jordi Bernabeu Farrús, CC 2.0.

Though it seems to have appeared on the Internet no later than December 2, 2013, Russian bloggers have suddenly discovered [ru] government censors’ revised criteria [ru] for recognizing information online that supposedly endangers minors. Russians can thank Roskomnadzor, the federal agency responsible for overseeing the media, for the new reading material, which spans roughly two thousand pages and twenty different sections. Many, however, are limiting their attention to Section 6 [ru] of the document, awkwardly titled “Criteria of Internet Content Harmful for Children’s Health and Development.”

Even the report’s authors confess that the subject is quite “heterogeneous,” making it difficult to determine “unambiguous criteria” for identifying offending material. To resolve problems with definitions, Roskomnadzor adopts broad parameters, designating anything published online as “systematically disseminated” information. To qualify as propaganda, the agency concludes, the content must also contain “false information” and have been produced with the intent of influencing public opinion:

Обычно под пропагандой понимают систематическое распространение фактов, аргументов, слухов и других сведений, в том числе заведомо ложных, для воздействия на общественное мнение. Таким образом, чтобы квалифицировать информацию, как пропаганду, необходимо зафиксировать: желание автора информации повлиять на общественное мнение, систематический характер распространения информации, наличие ложных сведений в распространяемой информации. Все эти критерии являются субъективными, что, безусловно, затрудняет процедуру экспертизы. Вместе с этим, следует отметить, что характер распространения информации в сети Интернет позволяет рассматривать еѐ как систематическую.

Usually, propaganda is understood as the systematic dissemination of facts, arguments, rumors, and other information (including deliberately misleading information) for influencing public opinion. Thus, to qualify information as propaganda, it is necessary to establish that the author of the information wishes to influence public opinion, that the dissemination of the information is of a systematic nature, and that the disseminated information contains false information. That all these criteria are subjective certainly complicates the expert review process. At the same time, it should be noted that the nature of information disseminated on the Internet allows us to regard it [by default] as systematic.

According to Roskomnadzor, information on the Internet can transform the family values of children and teenagers in the following ways:

  1. Manipulating facts and statistical data to discredit the traditional family model, propagating alternative models of domestic relations, and presenting them as permissible under certain circumstances.
  2. Using vivid images to provoke “intense emotional reactions” that discredit the traditional family model and propagate alternative models of domestic relations.
  3. Selectively depicting alternative models of behavior, “hiding all the negative aspects of these models, and showing only the positives.”
  4. Influencing the self-conception and self-identity of teenagers, “exploiting their interest in sex,” and luring them into homosexuality with “colorful previews.”

9 Things the Russian Government Says Are “Gay Propaganda”

In addition to these ground rules, Roskomnadzor offers some colorful examples of its own to help state censors identify information on the Internet that is “harmful to minors.” The following is a list of what the government considers “gay propaganda.”

1) Arguing that traditional families don’t meet the needs of modern society or the modern individual. (This includes propagating the idea that the traditional family model has “lost many of its functions and become an obstacle to the free development of individuals.”)

2) Information (contained in either images or prose) that justifies and (or) otherwise vindicates the acceptability of “alternative family relations.” (This includes websites that publish “out-of-context” statistics about children adopted by gay and straight couples, which could lead children and teens to believe that gay couples are “no worse than straight couples at coping with parental responsibilities.”)

3) Using “intense emotional images” to discredit traditional family models and propagate alternative family models. (This seems to include virtually any attempt to portray heterosexual relationships negatively and homosexual relationships favorably.)

4) Information that contains “images of behavior associated with the denial of the traditional family model” that promotes gay relationships. (This includes all “graphic demonstrations, in the form of pictures, photographs, or videos, of non-traditional sexual relations,” possibly encompassing even gay pornography.)

5) Instructions on how to experiment with gay sex.

6) Sharing the stories of minors who have “rejected traditional family values, entered into gay relationships, and shown disrespect to their parents and (or) other relatives.” (This might include the “It Gets Better” project.)

7) Information that “influences the formation of adolescents’ self-identity” by “exploiting their interest in sex.” (This includes “false allegations” about the prevalence of homosexual relationships among teenagers in modern society.)

8) Depicting gay people as role models. (This includes publishing lists of famous living and deceased gay individuals.)

9) The final “gay propaganda” criterion is perhaps the broadest, including anything that either “approves or encourages” gay people in their homosexuality.

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