The Russian government enacted an internet blacklist law, which aims to protect children from viewing harmful internet content by enabling the government to remove sites which it feels can be damaging.
Russian authorities can now blacklist and force websites offline without being tried, BBC reports.
Both the houses of parliament approved the law, which was signed by President Vladimir Putin, in July, The Guardian UKreported.
Human rights groups believe the new blacklist law may give the government the authority to further increase censorship in the country. The new blacklist law amends the current Act for Information.
According to authorities, the goal of the new law is to make sure children are not exposed to sites containing sexual abuse of children, suicide instructions, images of people consuming drugs, or sites which may solicit children for sexual acts.
It is believed to be another attempt on Putin’s part to further censor the nation, critics say. Vice president of Citizen’s Watch, Yuri Vdovin spoke with BBC and said that he did not believe the government would simply close sites which may be damaging to children, but also sites which encourage democracy:
“Of course there are websites that should not be accessible to children, but I don’t think it will be limited to that. The government will start closing other sites – any democracy-oriented sites are at risk of being taken offline. It will be [an attack on] the freedom of speech on the internet … But there are lots of harmful websites out there already, for example, fascist sites – and they could have easily been closed down by now – but no, [the government] doesn’t care, there are no attempts to do so.”