Russian-language sites are protesting a bill submitted to the lower house of Russian parliament this week. The bill would create a national registry of blacklisted sites that contained child pornography, extremist ideas, and suicide- or drug-related content. Many of the bill’s opponents say Duma Bill 89417-6 (titled “On protection of children from information harmful to their health and development”) is overly broad, risks becoming censorship akin to China’s “Great Firewall,” and does not include an adequate appeals process in case a site is wrongfully taken down.
Wikimedia’s Russian-language branch, LiveJournal, Russian search engine Yandex, and Russian social network vKontakte all protested the bill on Tuesday by shutting down or posting notices on their homepages explaining why the bill was dangerous to their sites. Most sites fear that the broad language in the bill would lead to government blacklisting simply by hosting a link to illegal content, or if a single user posted illegal content that was not discovered in time.
The bill would potentially require ISPs and Web hosts to block the blacklisted sites, “under threat of liability or even being added to the blacklist itself,” the Center for Democracy and Technology reports. RIA Novosti, one of Russia’s largest state-run news outlets, suggests that the bill has some support in all four-party factions in the Duma, and would appoint a federal agency to keep the blacklist and add violators to it.
Banning websites is not unheard of in Russia either. “The Justice Ministry is already running a blacklist of extremist materials banned by courts, which comprises websites and offline publications, as well as musical recordings and leaflets,” RIA Novosti reports. “The list currently has 1,199 entries.”
Ultimately, this bill is different from SOPA in that it would target illegal content rather than pirated intellectual property. The approach to banning content seems to be cast with a similarly broad net however. The bill is still under consideration, and Russia’s Presidential Human Rights Council came out sharply against it today. The organization said it was, “crucial to stop the introduction of censorship on the RuNet.”
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