A new Russian law will that allows the government to force any website offline, at any time, for any reason, without trial, goes into effect today.
According to RT.com, under the new law Under the law, any website discovered to have illegal content will be notified by Roskomnadzor that the prohibited information must be removed within 48 hours. If the illegal information is still available 48 hours after such a request is sent, access to it will be blocked by Russian internet service providers throughout the country.
The so-called 'Internet black-list' is aimed at the protection of children from harmful web content, but human rights organizations are calling the law a new form of censorship.
"Of course there are websites that should not be accessible to children, but I don't think it will be limited to that," Yuri Vdovin, vice-president of Citizens' Watch, a human rights organization based in Saint-Petersburg, told the BBC. "The government will start closing other sites - any democracy-oriented sites are at risk of being taken offline. It will be [an attack on] the freedom of speech on the internet."
Beyond Vdonvin's organization, the Russian-language version of Wikipedia, Russian search engine giant Yandex and social media portal Mail.ru have all protested the new law.
Yandex seemed more hopeful about the law and the Russian government's willingness to work with Internet companies to make the most of it. A company spokesperson told BBC, "The way the new law will work depends on the enforcement practice. Yandex, along with other key Russian market players, is ready to discuss with lawmakers the way it is going to work."
According to Nikolai Nikoforov, the media and communications minister, the law was not aimed at censorship, but rather at creating more transparency to existing practices.
“This law has no objective to introduce censorship or any sort of influence on the media,” a Russian news agencies quoted him as saying earlier last month.
Nikoforov did admit to Itar-Tass that some websites were already often arbitrarily blocked. “The law would allow this process to be regulated. Right now everything is chaotic – something or other is blocked here and there. This law would introduce a single set of rules."