The Russian State Duma [official website, in Russian] on Wednesday approved [session minutes, in Russian] the third reading of a controversial Internet regulation bill. The bill, which gives the Russian government the ability to completely block access to certain websites, is described by its authors as a means of protecting children from harmful content. Opponents fear, however, that the government will use the law to silence opposition speech. The legislation was overwhelmingly approved [AFP report] by the lawmakers with little debate and must now be signed by the president. The Russian version of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia [website] on Tuesday shut down its site [JURIST report] in a one-day protest of the legislation. The closed version of Wikipedia redirected users to a page that read, "imagine a world without free knowledge." The page also contained a link to the site's article on the Russian bill, which it says "may become the basis for real censorship on the internet."
Internet Freedom remains a controversial issue around the world. The UN Human Rights Council last week passed its first-ever resolution to protect the free speech [JURIST report] of individuals online. The resolution was approved by all 47 members of the council, including China and Cuba, which have been criticized for limiting Internet freedom. Last month the Chinese Ministry of Information and Technology revealed its proposed changes to Chinese Internet law [JURIST report] that seek to limit the ability of users to post anonymous comments on micro-blogs and forums. A Bangkok criminal court in May sentenced [JURIST report] Chiranuch Premchaiporn, webmaster of independent Internet news site Prachatai, to an eight-month suspended sentence for failing to delete defamatory comments against Thailand's royal family. Earlier that month, a Dutch court ordered [JURIST report] Internet service providers in the Netherlands to block the file-sharing website The Pirate Bay or else pay a fine of USD $12,750 per day.