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Russia began cracking down on Internet content on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube which it deemed to be harmful to children. A law passed last year allows the Russian government to censor content and websites that promote drugs and suicide; an enormous power easily justified by saying it protects the children.

Last year, the Russian parliament passed a bill allowing the government to shut down sites promoting drugs, suicide, and pornography in order to keep the internet safe for children. The blacklist bill received much criticism by those claiming this was just another way for the government to limit free speech and quell dissent.

“It is always argued that these laws are against extremism, child pornography, and so on, but this legislation will hit the opposition and freedom of political expression,” said Alexander Morozov, a popular blogger and head of Moscow’s Center for Media Studies think-tank.

As media has shifted its focus away from government regulated television media to online media, the Russian government has been trying to gain some control over internet channels. Using children for this political purpose seems absurd, but this wouldn’t be the first time. Anytime someone claims, “It’s for the children,” people are less likely to oppose in order to protect society’s most vulnerable members.

The law went into effect last November, but the Russian government only recently started going against Internet giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Of the three, only Google fought back claiming its Youtube video containing a razor and fake blood served entertainment purposes and did not condone suicide.

Protecting children seems like a noble cause, but since when is government the parent of every child? Parenting should be left to the parents, who can easily deploy browser tools to block certain websites and content promoting drugs, pornography, suicide and whatever else. If protecting children was the main goal, then why not give parents more tools to help their own children rather than blocking content for everyone including adults?

To be fair, much of the content that Russian government officials went after was deemed by the sites to be violating their terms of use. For example, Facebook and Twitter quickly removed inappropriate content once it was brought to their attention by the Russian government. The question is, will the use of this law widen over time to include more content in order to “protect the children”?

This is exactly what people are afraid of. There is no doubt that children must be protected, but by slowing giving the government more tools to censor the web, the power could be misused to block content promoting dissent and bad mouthing the government.

Creative Commons Licensed. DeviantArt user luvataciousskull.

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