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Minister Calls For Childproofing Internet

Communications and Press Minister Nikolai Nikiforov said Wednesday that safeguarding children from the "dangers, problems and new challenges" posed by the Internet is one of the biggest tasks facing his ministry.

"The Internet by itself is neither bad nor good," Nikiforov said in a speech that opened Russian Internet Week at Moscow's Expo Center. "The Internet is like a road where there are both good people and bad people."

"We have to think up rules of the game that would make it accessible to adults on the one hand while safe for children on the other," the 30-year-old minister added, saying Internet policymaking is "one of the key tasks" for his Cabinet office.

He made his comments just two weeks before an Internet restriction law takes effect. As of Nov. 1, the law will enable the government to block websites if they promote drugs, suicide or child pornography or if they distribute banned material, a move some analysts interpret as an excuse for introducing Chinese-style Internet censorship.

Nikiforov, the former top communications official for Tatarstan, also called the Web an engine of "the right type of growth" for the country's economy and praised major domestic Web companies such as Yandex and Mail.ru.

The government's goal is to provide "almost every family" in Russia with Web access, Nikiforov said.

But he said the government couldn't extend Internet coverage to all of the country because of its enormous size. He did point, however, to mobile broadband Internet, especially 4G services, as a way to reach as many citizens as possible.

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