Russian politicians approve firmer government control of the internet
With the internet providing a platform for political opposition, politicians in Russia have sought to gain greater control over what can be viewed and discussed online.
This week, the upper house of the Russian parliament passed a range of bills that would allow the government to block websites deemed dangerous to children, as well as repealing former President Dimitri Medvedev’s relaxing of slander laws.
Russia’s most popular websites, including blogging site LiveJournal and search engine Yandex, protested against the passing of the bills, which they said would “lead to the creation of a Russian analogue to China’s great firewall.” However, this seemed to make little impact on politicians, who passed the legislation with 147 votes in favour, three abstentions and not a single opposition vote.
Censorship of the internet has grown in recent years in authoritarian countries like Russia and China; perhaps conscious of the effectiveness social media has had in mobilising dissidents in politically fragile countries in the Middle East.
China has been particularly strict in monitoring the internet activities of its citizens, as well as cracking down firmly on those that break the rules. According to Amnesty International, China “has the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world.”
The UN responded to the law change by stating its concern that Russia was slipping back towards its Soviet past. Navi Pillay, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, said: “In just two months, we have seen a worrying shift in the legislative environment governing the enjoyment of the freedoms of assembly, association, speech and information in the Russian Federation.
“I urge the government to avoid taking further steps backward to a more restrictive era.”