[JURIST] Russia’s upper house of parliament on Tuesday approved a set of bills that apply new restrictions on the Internet and blogging, a move widely criticized by both pro-democracy activists and Russia’s technology sector alike. Critics of the draft laws affecting the Internet, which are expected to be signed by President Vladimir Putin [official website; JURIST news archive] soon and enforced in August, have expressed fear [Reuters report] that the legislation is an attempt by Putin to silence opponents on the Internet. The bill causing the most concern leaves bloggers subject to greater regulation and legal liability [WSJ report], equating them to media outlets. This bill, which would require bloggers with 3,000 or more page visits per day to reveal their identities and abide by many of the same requirements as the mass media, is one of three bills in the package that impose control over the dissemination of information on the Internet and online payments and inflicts harsher punishment for terrorism and extremism. The legislation also requires that social networking sites and blog hosts store data on site users for at least six months in case the authorities need access for investigations. Supporters of the bill, including the United Russia party [party website, in Russian], have stated that the restrictions are needed to fight online extremism.
Internet freedom remains a controversial issue around the world. In February Turkish President Abdullah Gul [BBC profile] approved legislation [JURIST report] to heighten Internet restrictions, granting the country’s telecommunications authority the ability to block websites or remove content without the court’s approval. Last year a Canadian human rights group unveiled research [JURIST report] indicating that a number of nations are using American-made Internet surveillance technology which could be used to censor content and track their citizens. The UN Human Rights Council in July 2012 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. Also in 2012 China adopted stricter rules [JURIST report] on both Internet providers and users. Last November Russia passed a law [JURIST report] giving the nation the authority to completely block access to certain websites. Last July the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution [JURIST report] intended to protect Internet speech.