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Duma Approves Bill on Internet “Blacklist”

Sergei Smirnov, 11/07/12


· Freedom of speech  · Children’s rights

On 11 July the State Duma of the Russian Federation adopted a bill in second and third readings to create a blacklist of websites, access to which it is proposed will be blocked.

Web sites, large media companies, social networks and bloggers are protesting against this introduction of censorship on the Internet. Amendments to the existing legislation were proposed by a team of legislators from all parliamentary parties. The “mouthpiece" for this initiative was the MP from the Just Russia party, Elena Mizulina. Her position on this issue can be read in various news media.

According to the official version, amendments to the legislation are intended to protect children from unlawful and corrupting content with the primary objective of blocking paedophiles online. It is proposed that sites containing information of a sexual nature involving minors, or instructions for suicide or the promotion of drug usage could be closed without an application to the courts. Adjudication on these issues with reference to a site rests with the supervisory authority which would deal with the internet hosting provider.

Twenty four hours’ notice will be given to the website owner to remove a banned page from the internet. If this does not happen, the internet hosting provider must block the page within a further 24 hours.

If an inactive or an insufficiently efficient hosting provider fails to block access to a site, then the site is entered into a register, and the communications provider will block access to their sites. reported that in the vote in the Duma on 11 July, not a single deputy voted against or abstained on this bill. The difference from the original version of the amendments was that the vague phrase "malicious information" had been removed. Only three specified reasons remained for putting a site onto the register.

Russian Wikipedia came out most harshly against the new bill. For a day the site was closed in protest against the imminent introduction of state censorship in the Russian Internet. Elena Mizulina strongly criticised this action by Wikipedia and suggested that the “Paedophile lobby”, which is afraid of losing its profits, is behind it.

A similar action was recently carried out by the American Wikipedia against the SOPA bill on copyright. In that case the action of the online community was strong enough to ensure that the bill was withdrawn.

The social network "Vkontakte", search engine "Yandex ", the Live journal  blog-platform and many experts supported Wikipedia, and they expressed the full spectrum of criticism from bewilderment and scepticism about the technical expertise of the authors of the bill to claims that the new Russian law is regrettably worse than the notorious "Great Firewall of China".

In an interview with, deputy director of Golos, Gregory Melkonyants, commenting on the controversial bill on "foreign agents", stated: "The internet in one form or another will be next."

The editorial team of agrees with this position and proposes that the new law on the internet is aimed at creating and testing a principled mechanism for filtering internet content. The “anti-paedophilia” status of the bill allowed it to pass the State Duma with relative ease without any objections from "moderate" parliamentary factions. At the same time, the State experienced opposition from the Russian Internet community. Calmly ignoring criticism by independent experts, including leading companies and online services, and successfully adopting this law, deputies can look more confidently to the future when it might be necessary to extend the list of information to be included in the register to include, for example, "extremist materials" or publications of a "political character", issued by "foreign agents."