Kazakhstan Cracks Down on Anonymous Internet Comments

Kazakhstan (EAN) – The government in Kazakhstan plans to force internet users to register on websites with their mobile phones if they wish to post comments, the deputy head of the communications and information technology committee, Mikhail Komissarov, has told media.

KazTAG news agency cited Komissarov as saying that law is to be changed to reflect these requirements. Under the changes under consideration, websites will be obliged to create the technical means to enter one’s phone number and receive an SMS so as to be able to complete the authentication process.

The aim of this regulation is purportedly to combat what Komissarov referred to as “information war.”

“We are all witnesses to how certain articles, which do not always have an unambiguous meaning, can be interpreted ambiguously by the public, and then in the comments section information wars will break out, often taking on uncivilized forms and leading to the incitement of inter-ethnic and religious hatred,” Komissarov said.

Introduction of this type of authentication will, Komissarov believes, lower the temperature of online discussions.

“A person that has registered will think three time before writing a message that could incite somebody to something,” he argued.

Emblem of Kazakhstan, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Ironically and predictably enough, internet users immediately rushed to the comment boards of news article to let Komissarov know what they thought of his idea. Readers of news website Nur.kz likened the proposed rule to something out of North Korea. Others said they were seizing the final opportunity to speak from their hearts while they still had the opportunity.

Then again, many supported the idea and lamented the growing trend for internet users to create needless scandals and sensations out of generally harmless news items or photos posted online.

There is also something futile about this understandable, possibly well-intentioned but ultimately misguided initiative. Presumably only websites based inside Kazakhstan would be subject to the legislation, which would exclude the social media sites most favored by local internet users.

This report prepared by Aktan Rysaliev for Eurasianet.org.