Russia starts blocking 'harmful' content online, opposition worried about wider censorship

By on April 1, 2013, 2:00 PM

The Russian government has begun enforcing a new law passed in November that enables it to block Internet content within its borders deemed illegal or harmful to children. According to a report by The New York Times, Russian officials have already asked Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to take down specific pages in an effort to limit access to objectionable content without resorting to a countrywide ban.

Opposition leaders in the country have railed against the law in question claiming it could be used to stifle criticism towards President Vladimir Putin or protests organized against his government on social networks. So far that hasn’t been the case, but some are worried that the law's vague wording might leave the door open to broader Internet censorship.

Some examples of blocked content includes a suicide-themed group on Facebook, while Twitter deleted posts related to illegal drug deals as well as three posts promoting “suicidal thoughts”. The report notes that Facebook also complies with local legislation to ban content in certain countries, including Germany and France where it blocks content related to Holocaust denial, and in Turkey where it blocks content defaming the country’s founder. In this case the offending content was removed site wide for violating its terms of use.

YouTube, on the other hand, complied with a Russian agency’s order to block a video that officials said promoted suicide, but it also launched a lawsuit in the country arguing the video in question, which showed how to make a fake wound with makeup materials and a razor blade, was intended for entertainment.

Perhaps with this exception the law has been used to target genuinely distressing material. That may or may not change in the future as what’s deemed illegal or harmful is left to the subjective opinions of those in power.

At least for the time being Russia doesn’t seem to be going for more restrictive measures as those seen in Iran, where the government recently started blocking VPN services used to bypass state-sponsored filters.

User Comments: 5

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ikesmasher said:

I hope that this doesnt spread any more at all.

Renrew Renrew said:

Russia trying to be the moral compass of he world? Must be a left over April 1 joke.

Tygerstrike said:

Where I can see the reasoning behind this action, it seems to me that the parents should be the ones monitoring their childrens web usage. Having the govt, ANY govt step in and tell any individual what they can and cant view sounds more like a IRAN move. Yes it Russia, but Russia has grown a lot in the past few decades. This MAY be just their govt trying to raise regular kids. Admittedly there is a ton of content that I would never allow a child to see. When I was growing up there was no internet. If you wanted to view porn, you had to steal one of your family members mags. Point is, lets just hope that they keep their meddeling to sites that kids shouldnt see.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I don't see a problem with this. You just join the Communist party, turn in your parents to the KGB, and the USSR's officially sanctioned ISP unblocks your internet access.

Honor to labor, comrades...!

Renrew Renrew said:

@ Tygerstrike--Slippery slope that is, who decides the communist party, Putin, the Kommissar for all things decent?

In todays society "regular Kids" are nonexistent, except the ones still kept in a bubble by their governments I.e. Iran, North Korea etc.. Once the cat is out of the bag with information about the rest of the world, regular kids become voices of revolution, the prime example being China.

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