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Russian crackdown on dissent goes virtual

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On Wednesday, the same day the Internet bill was adopted, the Duma passed a related bill on first reading that could further stifle public debate. Critics say it could be used to chill media reporting by criminalizing "defamation," as determined by a Russian court, which would in the future be punishable by a fine up to the equivalent of $160,000 or five years in prison. On Thursday a leading deputy of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, Pavel Krasheninnikov, told journalists that jail terms might be eliminated from further versions of the slander bill.

Political abuse

The new Internet bill would give providers just one day to eliminate offensive content. Non-compliance could force Russian-based websites – such as Facebook, VKontakte, or Wikipedia – to shut down.

The potential for political abuse of the draft law led Russia's largest Internet portal, Yandex.ru, to temporarily cross out the word "everything" on its logo on Wednesday, which normally reads "you can find everything" on Yandex. Russian Wikipedia closed down on Tuesday to protest the bill, posting only a notice that said: "Imagine a world where knowledge isn't free."

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