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Russian Parliament's upper house approves Internet 'censorship' bill

Russia's government will gain the power to blacklist websites without a court's consent

By Loek Essers
July 19, 2012 08:04 AM ET

IDG News Service - The upper house of the Russian Parliament passed a bill on Wednesday that the nation's IT industry believes has high potential to lead to Internet censorship.

The bill, including amendments to several laws, was adopted by the upper house of the Russian Parliament, the Federation Council of Russia. The adoption of the bill makes it easier to block sites that host child pornography, promote drugs and provide instructions about how to commit suicide, as well as other information that affects health and development, the Council said. In particular, the law includes the creation of mechanisms for the rapid removal of web pages that contain materials prohibited from circulation within Russia, the Council said.

IT companies in Russia however, have been warning that the law can have negative effects and lead to censorship because there is a risk that legal content can be blocked more easily too, mainly because it amends the law "On information, information technologies and information protection" to allow the blocking of websites through IP and DNS blockades.

It also looks as though Roskomnadzor, the Russian Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications, will gain the power to blacklist websites without a court's consent as of Nov. 1, Vladimir Medeyko, director of Wikimedia Russia, the organization that runs the local version of Wikipedia, said via instant message.

One of the amended laws leaves the opportunity to blacklist whole domains when only part of the hosted content is illegal. For instance 1.3 million blogs hosted on Blogger are blocked in Russia as a result of a court ruling that ordered the blocking of access to extremist blog posts, Google Russia said earlier this month. And in another lawsuit in 2010, a court ordered a local Internet provider to block the entire YouTube domain because the court deemed one of the hosted movies illegal, according to Google. The company said the new law is a threat for the Internet.

Presenting the bill to the Council, Senator Lyudmila Narusova said that the Internet community has certain worries, particularly regarding the risk of unjustified blacklisting of websites, and that it is necessary to constantly monitor enforcement of the amended law. However, she also pointed out that many European countries, including Germany and the U.K., and also the U.S. have certain mechanisms in place to block websites, adding that the fight against illegal information on Internet is strong in the world, a Council statement said.

Amendments to the law "On information, information technologies and information protection" should not have been made so hastily, said Vladimir Isaev, Manager of International Media Relations at Russian search engine Yandex, via email.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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