Russian-based websites have reacted with alarm to the State Duma’s approval of a new information law blacklisting some sites. Opponents say it amounts to a crackdown on open political debate.
Prime Minister Dimtry Medvedev has dismissed the criticism. He says the legislation aims to regulate the web which is needed to combat, among other things, child pornography.
The law will allow for the creation of a single register of sites containing information deemed harmful or illegal.
Opponents include the bloggers’ platform LiveJournal. They fear it is censorship by another name and question who will decide what material is considered suitable and if there will be a process of appeal.
“It doesn’t matter under what kind of law or what reason a site gets blacklisted. It’s important how this blacklist is created. Technically, it looks the same as what was done in China and in Kazakhstan, where LiveJournal was closed because it had a blog which criticised the image of the local government,” said LiveJournal-Russia chief, Ilya Dronov.
Although the bill must now go to the upper house of parliament for final approval, several internet sites immediately posted protest pages or staged a 24-hour blackout to register their opposition.