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The Russian government has opened a blacklist of websites that will be blocked from domestic internet users to avoid them harming themselves with too much information.

The new rules mean that ISPs will automatically block websites that the courts have deemed inappropriate. The law was introduced with the usual caveats about it being to protect children from online predators and to stop drug distribution, but political websites that criticize Tsar President Putin have already been blocked by the courts.

The decision on what sites are to be banned will be enacted by the sinister-sounding Roskomnadzor (aka the Agency for the Supervision of Information Technology, Communications and Mass Media) and enforced with deep-packet inspection of all internet traffic across the country – which must be reassuring for those using Russian cloud providers.

Roskomnadzor maintains a portal for the public to warn it of sites to be banned, but also takes guidance from the Interior Ministry, the Federal Antidrug Agency, and the Federal Service for the Supervision of Consumer Rights and Public Welfare on what sites are causing trouble.

"[The] internet has always been a free territory. The government is not aimed at enforcing censorship there," Russia's Telecom Minister Nikolai Nikiforov said, the TASS news agency reports. "LiveJournal, YouTube and Facebook showcase socially responsible companies. That means that they will be blocked only if they refuse to follow Russian laws, which is unlikely, in my opinion."

The law was introduced in July, amid a wave of protest from local online groups. The Russian Wikipedia page went dark for a day and social networking sites warned their users to be careful what they say. Meanwhile the Russian Pirate Party has pledged to find ways around internet blockages.

"Pirates believe that the wording of the law gives the nebula almost unlimited power to officials who are free to close almost any resource with unwanted information, guided by formal reasons," the group said. "This, according to the Pirate Party of Russia, is an unprecedented attack on freedom of speech in the country, and the pirates will oppose Internet censorship."

The group has set up a website Rublacklist.net to provide access to banned pages, although this isn’t automatic – the group will review the list on a case-by-case basis to see if a ban is justified. It will also provide advice on how to get around any banning where possible and on how to maintain privacy online under the new regime.

Since the site will be hosted outside the borders of the Russian Federation, and will be mirrored extensively, the Pirate Party hopes to keep the free flow of information going even if the state moves to block it.

"The government's resources are finite, but the internet is endless," party founder Stanislav Shakirov told RIA. ®

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