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Russia's parliament approves Internet blacklist law

Russia is the latest country to enact Web censorship-style laws. Sites deemed "illegal" under Russian law now face near-immediate blacklisting.

Zack Whittaker Writer-editor
Zack Whittaker is a former security editor for CNET's sister site ZDNet.
Charlie Osborne Contributing Writer
Charlie Osborne is a cybersecurity journalist and photographer who writes for ZDNet and CNET from London. PGP Key: AF40821B.
Zack Whittaker
Charlie Osborne
2 min read
Russian protesters waved this banner in December 2011 in an outcry over Vladimir Putin and Russia's presidential elections. Would similar actions online be proscribed under the proposed blacklist legislation? CBS News video/Screenshot by CNET's Jonathan Skillings

The Russian parliament has voted to approve a controversial bill that would see "illegal" websites blacklisted from the Web.

The bill proposed that websites that incited suicide or drug use, or offered 'extremist' material -- or any content deemed 'illegal' under Russian law -- could be added to a government-operated blacklist that would see the sites blocked to Russia's 145 million citizens.

Websites found breaching the law would have 24 hours to remove offending material, after which they would face blacklisting.

The bill was amended before today's parliamentary hearing to limit the threat of immediate blacklisting to sites containing child abuse imagery and those that promote drug use or suicide.

Definitions of such "harmful content" were added after the bill was halted in its second hearing, following criticism that the ambiguous wording would give the judiciary and government powers that could block sites that it found politically undesirable.

A court order must be used to seek a block on any other website, according to opposition politician Ilya Ponomaryov, who posted the bill's revisions on her blog.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the Internet should be "free," but warned it should be regulated based on rules that the global community has yet to form, according to Russian news service Ria Novosti.

The bill will be signed into law later this year by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The law has been likened to the U.S.' Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill, which would have given the federal government similar power to effectively blacklist websites that infringe copyright.

The bill's approval comes only days after the Russian version of Wikipedia blacked out its site in protest at the proposed legislation. "Imagine a world without free knowledge," the site said, as it prevented users from accessing the online encyclopedia.

Earlier this year, the English version of Wikipedia shut down in protest at the proposed SOPA bill, along with other high profile websites including Reddit. Google left its mark with a blacked-out doodle on its U.S. home page, but allowed users to continue using the search engine.

SOPA was shelved a few days later following a global day of online protests --- the largest of its kind in known history.