If a country want’s to start exercising more control over the internet, there is an easy way to start. You get your legislation together, work out what infrastructure is needed and then announce you will implement measures to protect children online. This is exactly what Russia did last year with a special bill which requires ISPs to maintain an ‘internet blacklist’ containing sites that should be blocked. It’s also what a host of other countries are currently investigating including the UK and some European countries. In Russia the bill was intended to protect children from harmful information contained online, in itself a rather vague and subjective definition.
The list does include some pretty horrible sites including child pornography but is also slowly expanding to include drug related sites, suicide information web pages and many others. However it illustrates exactly what happens when a Government believes that no-one cares about censorship and it has a remit to control as it sees fit. The list will grow and grow, in the last few weeks an entire blogging platform called L.J.Rossia has been blocked. Apparently there was some paedophile content uploaded to the site, but instead of blocking the specific pages or actually taking action against the individual involved the whole platform was banned.
Remember this is a blogging platform just like LiveJournal or WordPress, so when you block the platform you are also blocking all the bloggers and individuals who use that platform. People like Andrei Malgin, a journalist who is very critical of the Russian Government or perhaps Vladimir Pribylovsk, the author of Anticomprat.ru and another journalist who is vocal in their criticism of Putin’s regime. Potentially thousands of bloggers are now blocked in Russia because of a couple of pages uploaded onto the site.
Censorship simply doesn’t work in protecting the right people, any paedophile who operates online will use VPNs, maybe an Australian proxy or security programs like Identity Cloaker to bypass filters and URL blacklists. This is becoming mainstream technology and completely eliminates the effectiveness of simple URL black lists held at an ISP. Simple technology exists which individuals can use to protect children that can be installed very easily on a PC in fact most modern security/AV programs already have the feature.
In reality, it is simply a way for a Government to impose their own control over the internet.