Russia has begun blacklisting websites it considers a threat to children. A new law that was passed by parliament in the summer has come into force.
The government said it is to protect youngsters from child pornography, drugs and incitement to commit suicide. Critics claim it is the first step to making Russia’s media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, an internet censor.
The head of the agency, Alexander Zharov, said: “We can react adequately and effectively without blocking major resources. There was talk that we would block YouTube and the like. We won’t. We’ll work selectively.”
At the time the law was being drawn up, the Russian Wikipedia site protested by suspending its operations for 24 hours and the search engine Yandex printed the statement “Everything will be found” on its front page, but with the word “Everything” crossed out.
The head of the Movement for Human Rights, Lev Ponomaryov expressed his concerns: “This is a legal guarantee of the repressive regime in fact. If you look at what it is aimed at: the law is directed against the opposition and journalists.”
The law also allows the blocking of sites judged to be ‘extremist’ by the authorities and that has raised fears among opponents of President Putin, many of whom believe the internet is Russia’s only free forum for debate.