On Friday (20 January), the Mongolian parliament passed a new law supposedly to “protect human rights on social media,” but human rights groups say it threatens free speech and gives the state the ultimate power to regulate content on tech platforms.
The law was presented by Minister of Digital Development and Communications N. Uchral and approved by parliament within three days.
The law will take effect on February 1, 2023, unless Mongolian President U.Khurelsukh vetoes it. The law applies to communication related to the “protection of human rights and legitimate interests from violation of social networks, ensuring the implementation of laws and regulations on the provision of human rights, and public enlightenment.” It covers communications where three users or more communicate with each other.
The law gives broad powers to a “public relations unit” that will be created under Mongolia’s Public Center for Combating Cyber Attacks and Violations and be tasked to regulate social media content.
The broad powers include processing requests regarding restricted content and delivering decisions, recommendations, and requirements to social media providers.
The law lists various content violations such as the following:
- denigrating state symbols, national, historical and cultural values, culture and customs of Mongolia
- fraud using the social network
- promoting, urging, or pressuring to negatively affect child’s body, mind and morals
- encouraging or promoting violence or obscenity
- encouraging and promoting threats, suicide, and physical harm to people
- encouraging or advertising the use of narcotic drugs and psychoactive substances
- extremist activities, undermining national unity, disclosure of state and official secrets, terrorist acts, crimes against human security and national security, inciting and calling for crimes
- discriminating against an individual or a specific group based on ethnicity, language, race, gender, social origin, status, wealth, religion, opinion, sexual or gender orientation, disability, or health
- inciting and calling for secession
- infringement of intellectual property rights
- instructing in detail to commit a crime or violation, or encouraging, inciting, instigating, promoting, or supporting the commission of a crime or violation
- luring, urging, inciting, or promoting children to beg, wander, or live unsupervised
The law also empowers the Mongolian government to “reduce the distribution of content in violation and [to] partially or completely limit the communication network” in the event of public unrest.