New legislation has taken effect in Russia giving the government powers to shut down websites without a fair trial. The amendment to the Act for Information is, say the authorities, to protect children from the more nefarious aspects of the Internet, such as websites which encourage suicide, drug abuse, child porn, and pedophilia.
Human rights groups in the country are protesting against the measures, saying that the law infringes freedom of speech. "The government will start closing other sites—any democracy-oriented sites are at risk of being taken offline," said Yuri Vdovin of Citizens' Watch. "There are lots of harmful websites out there already and they could have easily been closed down by now, but no, [the Government][/the] doesn't care, there are no attempts to do so."
The bill circumvents any potential issues thrown up by the fact that the web is, indeed, a world-wide phenomenon, meaning that some Internet sites may be hosted outside Mother Russia. In these instances, ISPs and web-hosting firms will be forced to block access to the sites.
[Creative Commons image via Flickr user tigerweet]