A laptop computer displays Wikipedia's front page showing a darkened logo on January 18, 2012 in London, England.
Jeff Horwich: If you load the Russian version of Wikipedia today, you'll find a big pink bar across the top. And the site shut itself down completely yesterday to protest an Internet bill that looks likely to pass the Russian parliament. Human rights groups are also up in arms.
And to see what they're so worried about I've got reporter Peter van Dyk with me from Moscow. Good to talk with you.
Peter van Dyk: Good morning Jeff.
Horwich: As it’s written, what would this bill actually do?
Van Dyk: Well, it would allow the government to put a number of websites containing material that is harmful or threatening to children on a blacklist that would require the websites to remove them and if they don’t remove them then the Internet provider hosting the website would have to remove the whole website. And if that doesn’t happen the Internet provider could be shut down.
Horwich: And why does the government of Russia, which backs this thing, say that it needs this bill?
Van Dyk: Well, it’s a protection against material that is harmful for children. Now, the problem is the very wide possible application and the very nonspecific language in the law that has people really concerned.
Horwich: As you look at the language of the law where is it that skeptics see this potential for abuse?
Van Dyk: Well, it’s specifically where it talks about what can be put on the blacklist; without any sort of court oversight. Now, there is a further measure within it that says other illegal material can be included on the blacklist by going through a court and in Russia, illegal material is quite loosely defined and it includes things that call people to have extremist acts. So, there is a concern there that with just the say so of a judge, things like that could then be included into this blacklist and that would allow its reach to go far beyond what it is nominally intended to do which is to protect children.
Horwich: Peter Van Dyk reporting for us from Moscow, good to talk to you. Thanks.
Van Dyk: Thanks Jeff.