Russian government selectively blocks site access

The country is taking advantage of a new law signed last year that requires major Web sites to restrict that material officials find objectionable.

Mark Zuckerberg in Russia.
Mark Zuckerberg in Russia. Facebook

The Russian government has turned to censorship on the Web.

According to the New York Times, the government is utilizing a new law, which the Russian parliament approved in July and which took effect in November, that allows the government to selectively censor Web pages within its borders because of content that it believes is illegal or harmful to children. The law's supporters have said that it protects against child pornography and other harmful content, but detractors say that it's giving the government too much power to block whatever it deems unfit for its citizens.

Although smaller sites have been affected, major social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, have also been targeted under the new law. Both companies have complied with requests from the government, with Facebook recently removing a page that had to do with suicide. Both companies complied because the content violated terms of use, according to the Times. So far, however, Google has refused to comply with the initiative and last month filed a lawsuit in a Russian court, arguing that it should be allowed to keep videos on its site, regardless of the government's issues.

So far, according to the Times, the Russian Federal Service for Supervision in Telecommunications, Information Technology, and Mass Communications, the governing body that determines what can stay and what must go, has stuck to topics that are nonpolitical in nature. Critics, however, say that political censorship could be coming.

Web censorship is certainly nothing new. Around the world, including in China and several Middle Eastern countries, censorship is commonplace. In some cases, the censorship is designed to protect a country's ruling party. In others, the censorship is designed to "protect" users from unsavory topics across the Web. In either case, it draws the ire of organizations that believe the Web should be free and open.

About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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