Internet Wants to Be Free

In Soviet Russia, Internet Blocks You (Sort of)

Think of the kids.
Selfies are OK. (Photo: Hashgram/ObeyTheRussian)

Still allowed. (Photo: Hashgram/ObeyTheRussian)

Eric Schmidt left Russia off his world censorship tour for a reason. Until now, the government has kept Internet freedom largely in tact. But it’s about to get a lot stricter as Russia has begun to selectively block content online that is potentially harmful to children, reports the New York Times.

The Orwellian-sounding Federal Supervision Agency has been cracking down on “objectionable” material (i.e. child porn, content discussing drug use and suicide) spreading on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. The law was passed last November but has only been enforced in the past few weeks. The Russian government insisted the laws are to protect the kids and not to stifle controversial issues, like political dissent, the Times said:

The child protection law, they say, builds a system for government officials to demand that companies selectively block individual postings, so that contentious material can be removed without resorting to a countrywide ban on, for example, Facebook or YouTube, which would reflect poorly on Russia’s image abroad and anger Internet users at home.

So far, YouTube is the only website to voice a complaint. The Google-owned site filed a lawsuit in February disputing a claim from Russian officials that a video showing how to make a fake wound using a razor blade was for entertainment purposes. Facebook also found itself in the crosshairs of the law last Friday as it was forced to take down a page about suicide.

Teenagers aren’t entirely without online freedom, however. Judging by Instagram, selfies are still permitted.

Follow Jordan Valinsky on Twitter or via RSS. jvalinsky@observer.com