FCC chairman Julius Genachowski issued a statement late on Wednesday calling a new law passed by Russia’s lower house of Parliament “troubling and dangerous,” warning that it stifle investment because it gives the government broader powers to censor sites.
The law is aimed at curbing child pornography, but Genachowski suggested that it could be misused.
“Today, the Russian Federation’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, passed a bill that gives the state power to create a registry of blacklisted websites,” Genachowski said. “If enacted into law, this will require Internet service providers and website hosts to block access to the blacklisted sites or risk being added to the blacklist themselves. This is a troubling and dangerous direction. The world’s experience with the Internet provides a clear lesson: a free and open Internet promotes economic growth and freedom; restricting the free flow of information is bad for consumers, businesses, and societies.”
Genachowski added that he recently attended the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia, where he “heard broad interest in expanding broadband access, and broad recognition of the potential of the Internet as a strong engine for innovation, economic growth and creativity, as well as improved education, health care, and government services.”
“While protecting children on-line is a legitimate governmental concern, the Duma’s bill, in its current form, could lead to restricting access to valuable Internet content and services and chilling innovation, economic opportunity, as well as free expression,” Genachowski said.
Genachowski’s statement came after Wikipedia’s Russian site went dark in protest of the bill. His words also are somewhat unusual. Earlier this year, the FCC chairman stayed out of the debate in Washington over the Stop Online Piracy Act, which Wikipedia also protested as giving government officials too much power to curb content, even if it was to combat piracy.