Proposed Russian Law Opens Door To Iron Hand Of Online Censorship

A new bill passed overwhelmingly by Russia’s parliament, the Duma, would allow Russia to cut its entire domestic internet off from the rest of the world, allowing President Vladimir Putin’s government total control over the flow of information online, according to a report by the Associated Press. The bill, which still requires passage by the upper house of parliament as well as a presidential signature, has raised fears of new, iron-fisted censorship measures by Putin’s government. 

The new bill was passed on Tuesday, less than a month after Putin signed a new law into effect that makes it a crime to show “disrespect” toward Russian society or to insult Putin and other government officials in online posts, as reported

But the new bill goes beyond simply criminalizing content the government doesn’t like. Instead, the bill would require that all Russian internet service providers route online traffic through domestic, Russian servers, which would allow the government to intercept and monitor all internet communications, according to the tech magazine ZDNet

But even more chilling, the technology would allow the Russian internet to run independently of the global online infrastructure. Backers of the new bill say that it is designed to allow Russia’s internet to remain operational even if a cyberattack by the United States, or another Western power, tried to shut it down from outside the country, according to Forbes

Skeptics of the law, however, say that a Russian internet that runs independently of the rest of the global net could also choose to cut itself off, allowing the government total control over what information Russians are able to access online.

In a country where most traditional media outlets are owned by or loyal to Putin’s government, the internet has become a valuable source of information for political dissidents and opponents of Putin. The new law could end the ‘net’s effectiveness as an alternative source of information and communication.

But top Russian officials have tried to calm fears of a new, totalitarian system of internet control. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has specifically disavowed “Chinese-style regulations” on the internet, and Alexander Zharov—head of Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (also known as the Roskomnadzor)—compared the proposed new law to a nuclear weapon that should always remain “in sleep mode.”

Photo By / Wikimedia Commons


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