Since Nov 1st 2012 the new Russian law implementing the Internet censorship comes into effect. This law allows several agencies of the Russian government to add any Internet site they consider “harmful to children” into the government-mandated block list. Russian Internet providers are legally obligated to block access to the sites which are present in this list. Quick summary of the law:
- The sites could be blocked by either the court or one of the government agencies. The law currently allows blocking for three categories of web sites: child pornography, drug propaganda and the web sites about the suicide.
- The law provides no oversight and no penalties for the government employees who add the specific site into the block list. Further, the list itself is secret and only available to the Internet providers.
- The law requires the government to notify the site owner and let the owner to remove the content in three days. This, however, does not happen, and the sites get blocked without any advance warning.
- It requires a court order to remove the site from the blocked list, while it could be added there simply by some government clerk.
- The access is blocked for everyone, even the adults who don’t have any children. The block is mandatory.
Internet is the main vehicle fueling the democracy in Russia. Popular social networking sites such as LiveJournal and Facebook/VKontakte are widely used by the opposition to coordinate the peaceful protests, uncover the major corruption scandals and simply exercise their free speech rights by sharing their opinions which are censored from the Russian government-maintained TV channels. Therefore a lot of Russians are worried the real purpose of a new law is to quickly shut down the resources the opposition uses to fight the Putin regime. During the first days the law went into effect it blocked a few political satire sites, and a site about the suicide prevention. This is just start.
It is a worrying trend when governments limit the Internet access for adults under the guise of “saving our children”. However we can help Russians to fight the Internet censorship.
What can you do:
- Spread the word! Tell others about the censorship and how to work around it.
- Set up Tor software or I2P software and run an exit node or an intermediate node. This will help the people to reach censored sites. We are running the Tor node here at Ulduzsoft.
- Donate to NoiseBridge or similar organizations which run the Tor exit nodes for everyone to use.
- Educate your friends about the effects of the censorship on the society. Censorship is a very attractive option to any government, we must be vigilant to preserve our right to free speech!