Russian Orthodox Activists Want ISPs to Block Facebook

Just days after Russia passed an Internet blacklist law, a religious group is now trying to block social networking site Facebook. The reason? The apparent new status for same sex marriages. The Russian Orthodox activists gave the site an ultimatum to stop “flirting with sodomites” and remove all content promoting homosexuality, but after Facebook refused to give into the demands, the activists have taken to trying to have all ISPs block the site altogether.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

It almost seems like every time we say a new law opens the door to abuse, the law ultimately gets abused or in some way misused. Sometimes, the abuse happens within hours of the passage of said ill-informed laws. While this didn’t happen within hours, it was still quite quick on the draw. Just two days ago, we reported on new censorship laws being passed in Russia. The laws say that any site that is promoting suicide, drugs or anything considered illegal under Russian law in some way (be it a single page or a whole website), that website is subject to an ISP level blacklisting.

While we aren’t sure which sites was up first for a blacklisting, it appears that Facebook is pretty close to the front of the line at the very least. Whether or not there is a connection between the calls to censor Facebook and the recently passed law is unclear. Still, the passage of such censorship laws makes it all the more possible that a ban is much more possible – especially given the recent ban on material related to what some could perceive as the promotion of homosexuality. The Russian Times has a detailed account of what went on.

At first, these activists simply took offense to the fact that a homosexual marriage status was implemented on Facebook. So, they sent a fax to Facebook demanding the removal of such a feature and anything that could be considered promoting homosexuality. After the faxed demands failed to work, a petition was circulated demanding the removal of homosexual content on Facebook. They called upon anyone, not just those of the Orthodox faith, to sign the petition so that they could reach one million signatures (reportedly, there’s only 34,000 signatures so far). More from the article:

“We demand only one thing: Facebook should be blocked in the entire country because it openly popularizes homosexuality among minors,” Roslyakovsky is quoted as saying.

The organization’s leader has already sent a request to the Prosecutor General’s Office asking it to inspect the social network’s activities in terms of gay, lesbian and pedophile propaganda.

Once a million of signatures are collected, activists are also planning to submit an appeal to the State Duma.

“The US goal is that Russians stop having children. [They want] the great nation to turn into likeness of Sodom and Gomorrah,” Roslyakovsky told Saratov news portal.

According to the public activist, Facebook has already affected a large number of inexperienced youngsters and it is not clear what they will be like when they grow up.

“But I am confident that Russian laws and reasonable citizens will be able to protect their children from a fierce attack of sodomites,” he stated.

Personally, I think if Americans found out that a religion was dictating what they can and cannot view on the internet, there would be a huge uproar over it. At the same time, I don’t think a large portion of the United States would really care what Russians are seeing online. They have other things that are soaking up their attention at the moment (like the upcoming US election).

Still, what I find quite interesting is the fact that it only took a matter of days before religious groups started utilizing the new censorship laws to try and filter out anything considered undesirable content. If this is a sign of things to come, there won’t be much of an Internet left in Russia unless there are efforts to evade the blacklists on the part of the users in the coming years.

I also think that this is a shining example of what is so dangerously wrong with Internet censorship. You very quickly have various interest groups trying to form the Internet and shape it to what they want. The Internet is much more designed to allow for all viewpoints to be heard, not just the viewpoints of a select few people who have their hands on some sort of control switch at the ISPs.

(Via BetaBeat)

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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