The Russian parliament voted on Wednesday to approve a bill blacklisting Russian websites that appear to promote drugs or contain porn or “extremist” material.
The bill still needs to be signed by President Vladimir Putin but is expected to become law in November.
Russian deputies also passed a second bill today that makes libel and slander criminal offences.
Submitted to the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, on June 7, the web bill proposes that websites can be blacklisted without judicial approval.
Under the new law if a website contains controversial content, a three step process will be applied. First, law enforcement officials notify the access provider who is then expected to inform the website owner that they must delete the content. The website is then given 24 hours to remove the content. If it fails to do so, the URL and material is blocked, as well as the website’s IP address and domain name. Additionally, if the provider fails to block the website, it then shares responsibility with the website owner.
The leader of the HRC, Mikhail Fedotov expressed concern that, “the bill envisions the introduction of real censorship in the Russian sphere of the internet”
Wikipedia shut down its Russian language site for 24 hours in protest against the bill, which it said would mean “a world without free knowledge”.
Andrei Soldatov, editor-in-chief of website Agentura.ru said, “As a rule limitations and censorship are imposed under the pretense of protecting children”. Soldatov went on to say “Clearly, it will be possible to use it not just against websites propagating pornography; the government will be able to use these instruments any way it wants.”
Earlier this week Kirsty Hughes, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship said:
“The Bill currently passing through the Duma is aimed squarely at clamping down on online dissent. The law will force ISPs to install filters at huge cost to prevent access to websites that the Communications Regulator deems ‘extremist’, with no judicial oversight. With Compromat.ru, a site exposing regime corruption targeted by the Moscow prosecutor last week, it’s clear that in Putin’s Russia freedom of expression is in decline.”