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Russia Eases Planned Internet Restrictions as Companies Protest

Russia watered down plans to impose controls over the Internet that provoked accusations President Vladimir Putin is seeking to stifle free speech.

A bill giving authorities the power to blacklist websites without a court order was restricted to sites that contain child pornography or promote drugs or suicide, according to a revised draft posted today on opposition lawmaker Ilya Ponomaryov’s blog.

Websites that contain other illegal content for children can only be shut down by court order, according to the draft. The lower house of parliament, or State Duma, will vote on the measure in the second of three readings today.

Putin, 59, who was re-elected as president in March after four years as prime minister, is facing opposition street protests organized through social-networking websites. OAO Yandex, which operates Russia’s biggest search engine, joined websites including Wikipedia and LiveJournal in opposing the proposed law.

“We managed to block the main danger in the law in the second reading,” Ponomaryov, from the Just Russia party, said today on his blog. “They’ve taken out the vague notion of bad content and the law is strictly limited to child pornography and pedophilia.”

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