The Russian parliament has approved a bill which will allow the government to shut down websites hosting content they deemed “harmful.” If signed into law, it will see the creation of a system to monitor and blacklist websites.
An amendment to Russia’s Act for Information, bill 89417-6 was put forth by a committee concerned with internet security. They say it was designed to allow the government to remove pornography, suicide advice and content which encourages drug use, but it has drawn criticism from activists who oppose online censorship. Wikipedia shut down the Russian version of its site earlier this week in protest, going dark to encourage its users to share infomation about the bill which they compared to “the Great Firewall of China”. Russian search giant Yandex and social network Vkontakte also protested the bill, with the search engine censoring the word “everything” from its normal “You can find everything” tagline.
Before the bill was voted on in parliament, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that the government did not want to restrict freedom online entirely. “The basic principle is that the Internet should be free,” he said. “But it should also observe people’s basic rights and laws, including the right to information, but also the right to protection from harmful content.”
The country’s own council for human rights said that the law was adopted without widespread public discussion and will result in an “electronic curtain” than will negatively effect the ecommerce industry and the stability of the Russian internet.
The bill which was approved by parliament was an updated version — the previous one didn’t clearly define exactly what types of “harmful content” would result in a site being shut down without a trial, but was amended after the first reading of the bill on Tuesday. Some reports state that the bill could become law as early as November this year or early in January 2013.