Recent amendment of Romanian gambling laws by the Ministry of Finance, bill 823/2011, starts widespread fears about internet censorship. The new rule revolves around giving new powers to a body, which will control online gambling in the country.
The new institution will obtain the necessary power to identify and ban sites, allegedly offering illegal gambling opportunities including online sportsbooks and online casinos in Romania. The sites will be blocked by requiring ISPs to prevent Romanian access to the sites, blacklisted by the new institution.
The black list will contain websites, which offer links in an advertising, marketing or any other promotional nature to illegal gambling. The bill 823 was passed at the end of August and will not require the monitoring body or the ISP to inform the blacklisted websites about the fact that they would be or already have been blocked.
This fact raised fears that the monitoring body will abuse its powers to exercise internet censorship in Romania. Some critics of the new regulations and several human rights NGOs and Romanian ISPs have tried to address this fact with the Ministry of Finance, yet the government refused to discuss the matter during the consultation period before passing the bill.
Romania gambling news report that the regulatory body, or “competent authorities” as the government calls it, will send the black list to the Ministry of Communication, which will subsequently order the ISPs to block the sites.
The orders will then have to be carried out in the period of 12 hours, with the menace of heavy fines to ISPs, if they don’t comply. The new bill doesn’t contain any provisions for judicial oversight of the system.
It remains to be seen how the new bill will be implemented on practice and if this regulation means the start of internet censorship in Romania.