According to the US Library of Congress, the Republic of Belarus has just recently published a law making it illegal for Belarusian citizens and residents access and/or use foreign websites (particularly for commercial purposes). Violations of the law are recognized as a misdemeanor and result in a charge of up to $125.
The law requires companies and individuals that are registered as entrepreneurs to only use domestic domains for providing online services, conducting sales, or exchanging email messages. This likely means that domain holders with any connection to outside services will likely have to forfeit their domains.
The law will begin on January 6, completely destroying the benefits that an open Web can have on the economy and quality of life for citizens. From the LoC:
It appears that business requests from Belarus cannot be served over the Internet if the service provider is using online services located outside of the country. The tax authorities, together with the police and secret police, are authorized to initiate, investigate, and prosecute such violations.
Additionally, the Law states that the owners and administrators of Internet cafés or other places that offer access to the Internet might be found guilty of violating this Law and fined and their businesses might be closed if users of Internet services provided by these places are found visiting websites located outside of Belarus and if such behavior of the clients was not properly identified, recorded, and reported to the authorities. The Law states that this provision may apply to private individuals if they allow other persons to use their home computers for browsing the Internet.
The law serves in complete contrast to a new Malaysian law, which requires restaurants in Kuala Lumpur (the second largest city in Malaysia) to have Wi-Fi. Instead of attempting to increase connectivity, The Belarusian Government is clearly trying to assert complete control over the Internet.
It’s noteworthy that the law now authorizes the government to establish a blacklist of websites to be blocked by ISPs. Content such as pornographic websites and anything that contains content of an “extremist nature” will be blocked.
More from the LoC:
Commentators believe that these measures will lead to outside websites blocking access from Belarus. For example, suppose someone in Belarus buys something from Amazon, which is not a Belarusian company and thus is not registered in Belarus. The transaction is illegal, and so the Belarusian Attorney General would send a note to Amazon informing it that it is violating national law and might be sued.
The law, which is a pure regression, shares many overtones and practical functions with the much maligned SOPA bill here in the United States. And like SOPA, the Belarusian law will stifle innovation and plague its economy.