Russia’s parliament Wednesday, July 11 passed a controversial bill allowing the government to block blacklisted websites, which critics warn could ultimately be used to crack down on dissent, Total Telecom said citing Dow Jones Newswires.
The Russian state Duma, or lower house of parliament, approved the bill unanimously on the second and third readings after four amendments were inserted that substantially narrowed the criteria under which the government could shut down a site deemed harmful to the public good.
In the days running up to the parliamentary debate, the bill sparked widespread protest from the operators of popular web sites and human rights activists, who said it was a thinly veiled attempt at government censorship like that seen in China.
Yet in parliament, even prominent opposition lawmakers supported the bill, saying that the legislation actually represented a welcome step.
The bill now heads to the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house, where it is expected to pass. It will then head to President Vladimir Putin’s desk to be signed into law.
Supporters of the bill say the proposed change to the country’s information legislation is only intended to target child pornography and similarly questionable sites. Opponents warn that it could be used to shut down sites deemed unfavorable by the government.
Several popular websites staged protests Tuesday against the law’s passage, with the Russian-language version of Wikipedia taking itself off-line for 24 hours and replacing its homepage with the message “Imagine a world without free knowledge.”
Russian Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov said Wednesday that the bill would undergo further adjustments in the fall and only then would the criteria for regulating websites be formulated.