Russia's parliament votes for internet censorship law

Russia's lower house of parliament has voted for a law that would give the government the power to shut down internet sites without trial

Russia's lower house of parliament has voted in favour of a law to give the government the power to shut down internet sites without trial.

If offending websites cannot be shut down, the law allows authorities to force internet service providers and web hosting companies to block access.

Authorities say the proposed amendment of the country's Information Act is aimed at sites containing images of child sexual abuse and other illegal material.

But the proposed law has prompted fears that censorship could later be extended by extending the list of banned content, according to the BBC.  

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has defended the law: "People's basic rights and freedoms must be upheld, including the right to information on the one hand and the right to be protected against harmful content on the other hand," according to Radio Free Europe.

The bill has to be approved by Russia's upper house and signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law, but local reports say it could come into force as early as November.

The Russian version of Wikipedia and local search engine Yandex have expressed concern that the move could lead to extrajudicial censorship of the internet in the country.

They have called for the bill to be discussed in open forum with the participation of the internet industry and technical experts.

Authorities in China have already tightened online censorship by introducing new laws that require all video content to be pre-screened before going online.

Authorities claim the crackdown will protect young people from excessive violence and pornography in online shows and mini-movies.

But Youku, China's most popular online video provider, said the clampdown is likely to be used to also block any anti-government political content.  

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