As reported in Wired on 1 November 2012, today marks the start of a new era in Russia’s Internet world. Under the laudable goal of protecting Russian children from Internet paedophiles, the Kremlin has introduced a single register of banned websites based on new legislation.
While the legislation should only in theory block child pornography sites, it is clear that it will be leveraged, as intended by the Kremlin, to block access to sites run by opponents of President Putin’s regime.
So it would appear that Putin has decided to follow along China’s path and radically restrict access to alternative views on Russia’s Internet. From a cynical perspective this makes sense: already Russia’s TV channels fall into line with orders and spout only the party line.
Until now the Internet had been left to a large extent to its own devices, providing a welcome outlet for people to vent their frustrations and engage in polemics from the whole political spectrum. The future looks unclear now.
However, given the intelligence and inventiveness of Russia’s population, it is to be hoped that ways will be found to circumvent this new form of control.