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Russia starts censoring internet suicide content after passing child protection law

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moscow kremlin (denis larkin / shutterstock)
moscow kremlin (denis larkin / shutterstock)

Last year Russia passed a law giving the government powers to control and blacklist certain websites that it deemed to be harmful to children. It went into effect in November, and the New York Times reports that authorities have begun cracking down. There appears to be a particular focus on sites containing information pertaining to suicide — both Facebook and Twitter have agreed to remove such content in the past few weeks. YouTube, however, filed an appeal in February over a takedown notice; the video in question depicted a woman using makeup and a razor blade to make it appear as if she had cut her wrists, but Google argued that the clip was intended as entertainment.

"Absurd, harmful, and absolutely unnecessary."

Outgoing FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has said the legislation signals "a troubling and dangerous direction" for the internet in Russia, and speaking to the Times, journalist Anton Nosik called the laws "absurd, harmful, and absolutely unnecessary" — while playing down the likelihood of a broader enforcement across the web. The government, for its part, argues that the bill was designed to protect children from harm by blocking pages on drugs, suicide, or child pornography. While there's no clear indication yet that the Putin administration has or will employ the new laws to stifle political opposition online, it's not surprising that many in Russia are feeling uneasy about the new powers afforded to the Kremlin nonetheless.