Hot on the heels of the founding of a new religion in Sweden, the Church of Kopism, which is based around the holy right to file-share, comes new legislation from Belarus, which comes into effect today, which will make browsing any foreign websites illegal, punishable by fines of up to $125US.
Any foreign businesses which want to conduct themselves in the country will have to register domestic domain names to do so.
First brought to public attention in December 2011, by the Law Library of Congresshttp://www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/lloc_news?disp3_l205402929_text, the act will require compulsive registration of all domestic and foreign websites in Belarus, which must then be hosted in the country.
This is one more worrying attempt at internet censorship in a long line of attempts springing up across the globe, the most notable is SOPA in the United States. It is arguable that before long, with more and more of these acts being passed, that the internet will be too full of restrictions to become the place of creative and innovative ideas to flourish. One need only look to China to analyse how such restrictions can lead to stifled political and economical development.
The potential economic and political damage this act could cause may be significant and irreversible. It is not past imagining that the world's biggest websites, be they Amazon or Google, Youtube or similar are unlikely to be hosted in the country at the moment. All of them currently have US domain names, and US hosting - it remains to be seen whether any of them will take steps to register in Belarus. If foreign businesses do not take to a Belarusian domain name, export may be dramatically reduced, further expounding an already beaten economy.
The legislation will also make internet providers liable for fines; for example, if someone is browsing a foreign website in an internet cafe, the cafe will be responsible for the actions of its customer and will be open to fines of even closure. I believe it is the same in the household; should you let your friend come over and use the internet, you will be liable.
In addition, the legislation now allows the government to establish and continuously update a list of banned websites which will have to be blocked by internet providers, which is to include, among other things, political websites which the government considers to be too extreme.
Only time will tell what impact this legislation will have on the country, but it is, at least in this writers opinion, a dramatic step in the wrong direction for a democratic society and a democratic Europe.