Russia clears way to block Facebook, YouTube for 'censorship'

Russia's lower house of parliament said in a media release that authorities can target Internet platforms if they have been found to limit information based on nationality and language. — AFP

MOSCOW: Russian lawmakers on Dec 23 moved a step closer to allowing regulators to block Internet platforms like Facebook and YouTube if they are deemed to have censored content produced by Russians.

Russia's lower house of parliament, which passed draft legislation in a third reading, said in a media release that authorities can target platforms if they have been found to limit information based on nationality and language.

The lower house State Duma added that Internet websites could also be sanctioned "in the event of discrimination against the content of Russian media".

In an explanatory note attached to the bill, the authors wrote that authorities have been receiving complaints this year from Russian media that their accounts have been censored by "foreign Internet platforms Twitter, Facebook and YouTube".

Earlier this year the US tech giants introduced labels for state-affiliated media outlets.

The legislation now needs to get approval from the upper house Federation Council before President Vladimir Putin signs it into law – steps that are considered to be formalities.

The Kremlin in recent years has stepped up its efforts to control the Russian segment of the Internet under the pretext of combatting online extremism.

In 2018 regulators ordered the encrypted messenger service Telegram to be blocked, although those attempts were ended earlier this year after its co-founder Pavel Durov reported on steps to combat extremism.

Last week a Moscow court fined Google for not taking down online content banned by Russian authorities, the latest in a series of escalating penalties.

In February a Moscow court fined Twitter and Facebook for ignoring a Russian law requiring them to store Russian citizens' user data inside the country. – AFP

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