Russian Online Censorship Law Takes Effect

Russian Online Censorship Law Takes Effect

November 1st, 2012

A BBC article reported Wednesday that a new law has taken effect in Russia. An amendment to the current Act for Information, the law allows authorities to blacklist and take down websites without a trial. If the websites themselves cannot be shut down, internet service providers (ISPs) and web hosting companies can be forced to block access to the offending material.

According to the BBC,

The authorities say the goal is to protect minors from websites featuring sexual abuse of children, offering details about how to commit suicide, encouraging users to take drugs and sites that solicit children for pornography.

"Of course there are websites that should not be accessible to children, but I don't think it will be limited to that," Yuri Vdovin, vice-president of Citizens' Watch, a human rights organisation based in Saint-Petersburg, told the BBC.

"The government will start closing other sites - any democracy-oriented sites are at risk of being taken offline.

"It will be [an attack on] the freedom of speech on the internet."

However, the country's telecom Minister Nikolai Nikiforov has suggested that the concern exhibited by a number of people is overblown.

"Internet has always been a free territory," he said, according to a report by Russian news agency Tass.

"The government is not aimed at enforcing censorship [on social networking or blogging sites]… That means that they will be blocked only if they refuse to follow Russian laws, which is unlikely, in my opinion."

There is also evidence suggesting public support for the move.

What do you think? Is the censorship law a risk to Russian internet freedom and democracy, or an apprporiate step in the protection of children online? Might this legislation eventually prove problematic for international websites who sell goods and services in Russia? Let us know what you think in the comments.


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