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Russia approves contentious Internet blacklist bill

Russia's websites could be in danger, following the approval of a bill that will blacklist "illegal" websites, as well as a second piece of legislation that could make libel and slander criminal offenses.

Sites that violate the new law, which restricts pages that incite suicide, promote drug use, offer "extremist" propaganda, or contain other "illegal" content, will have 24 hours to remove the content in question before being blocked.

The bill was altered slightly in an effort to appease those who opposed it. Immediate blacklisting will now only occur for sites with images of child-abuse or content that advocate illegal substances or suicide.

The bill will be signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin later this year, making the revisions to the "On Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information" law official.

In protest of the law, the Russian version of Wikipedia shut down on Tuesday, backed by other businesses like social networking sites VKontakte and LiveJournal. Visitors to the site saw a black censorship banner over the Cyrillic word for "Wikipedia."

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told news outlet Ria Novosti that he believes the Internet should be free, but "also operate on a set of rules that the global community has yet to work out."

Meanwhile, initial approval was given last week to a new libel/slander law that could entail fines of up to 500,000 Russian rubles (nearly £10,000) and a prison sentence as long as five years.

There was a similar Internet blackout in the US earlier this year, when several high-profile sites like Reddit and Wikipedia went dark in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). The bills were intended to combat "rogue" overseas websites trafficking in copyrighted goods, but detractors said the bills were too broad and could have impacted legitimate websites. The Internet blackout helped sideline both bills in the US, though similar legislation has cropped up since.