As of November 1, Russian authorities can shut down Web sites that they deem harmful to children, such as those promoting child pornography, without a court decision. The law also extends to sites that a court has ruled to be extremist, which has led to fears that the government could manipulate it to include sites run by opposition parties or organizations, threatening freedom of speech. Even Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov warned of the potential dangers of the law: “It sounds like a joke, but because of [a controversial anti-Islam film recently posted online], all of YouTube could be blocked throughout Russia.”
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What’s the Big Idea?
The law is the latest in a series of legalized restrictions, including increased fines for protesters and the criminalization of libel, that concern observers. Internet groups also worry that Russia’s growing online industry could be hurt due to the possibility of IP blocking. Although the federal organization tasked with implementing the law has yet to release the “blacklisted” sites, some analysts say that the this may be a first step towards making the government’s cybercrime-fighting agencies more accountable and the Russian Internet more transparent.