Tuesday, January 3, 2012

One Per Cent

Jacob Aron, technology reporter
(Image: Markus Brunner/Getty Images)

Citizens of the Republic of Belarus who visit websites hosted in other countries could soon face fines of up to $125 thanks to onerous legislation that comes into force on 6 January. While the new law aims to ensure all e-commerce takes place within the virtual borders of the landlocked East European nation, its effects are likely to go far wider.
The US Library of Congress's Global Legal Monitor says the new law will mean Belarusian companies, plus individuals registered as entrepreneurs, may only use domestic .by domains for providing online e-commerce services, conducting sales or sending emails.
The new law also affects internet cafe owners, who could be fined and have their businesses closed down if their customers are found visiting websites outside Belarus. But this could even apply to private individuals who let other people use their computer to browse foreign websites.
Even companies outside Belarus could fall foul of the new law. For example, Amazon is not registered in Belarus, so the republic's attorney general could potentially sue it for violating national law if it sells products to people in Belarus. As such, companies outside Belarus are likely to close their doors to the country to avoid legal hassles.
Such draconian measures are perhaps to be expected from Belarus, described as ""the last remaining true dictatorship in the heart of Europe" by former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. The country has been ruled by president Alexander Lukashenko since 1994 and is listed as a "country under surveillance" for internet censorship by Reporters Without Borders.


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