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