- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2018

Lawmakers in Moscow have advanced a bill that lets the government block access to websites accused of publishing defamatory information.

Russia’s State Duma on Thursday passed on its third reading a bill further tightening Moscow’s grip on the internet by giving state censors the ability to blacklist websites deemed defamatory by a court.

“Access to internet resources can be restricted for failure to delete information discrediting of honor, dignity or business reputation of a citizen,” the State Duma said through its Twitter account.

The bill also applies to websites that publish content considered to be damaging to a legal entity, according to Interfax, a regional newswire.

Currently courts can only fine web administrators for refusing to delete allegedly defamatory content, while the pending bill would let courts ask the federal internet watchdog, Roskomnadzor, to outright block access.

“The adoption of the bill will help protect the rights and legitimate interests of persons whose honor, dignity and good name have suffered damage as a result of the dissemination of untrue negative information,” said the bill’s authors, according to Interfax.

“The specificity of disseminating information on the Internet requires that special legislation be enacted to enforce court decisions, which is to ensure the realization of the constitutional rights of everyone for judicial protection,” they said.

The bill will likely pass in the Federation Council, the legislature’s upper chamber, and ultimately garner President Vladimir Putin’s signature, The Moscow Times reported.

Russians are already subject to significant restrictions with regards to their internet access and online communications, and an average of 244 websites were blocked every day of the year in 2017, according to a human rights report cited by The Times.

Roskomnadzor briefly banned Google in June for linking to an online betting service banned by federal regulators, and earlier this week the censor sued Telegram, a messaging application used by millions of people in Russia and abroad, over a dispute involving Moscow’s inability to eavesdrop on its customers’ conversations.

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