Today, Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, signed a bill into law that will tighten the control of the government over the internet. The new law demands that internet service providers in Russia unplug from foreign servers. It also summons for the creation of a national domain system that would enable the country to stay online if it was ever cut off from the global internet. The Financial Times reports that the said law is set to go into effect on the 1st of November.
Officials in Russia first submitted the said measure back in December as a response to the cyber strategy of the United States of America following the presidential election that was held in 2016. The bill attracted fierce criticism from Russian citizens and civil liberty groups because of concerns that it would only increase the censorship of the government. according to NPR, the “Free Internet” rallies that were held in Moscow were considered to be some of the biggest that the media had seen in years. A poll that was state-funded discovered that 52 percent of the Russians are against the said bill.
The internet freedoms of Russia are already in a dismal state. The Russian government already imposed limits on the use of VPNs, blocks websites, and designates media outlets that receive foreign funding as “foreign agents.” In 2018, a court in Russia ruled that the country could ban Telegram, an encrypted messaging app. In its “Freedom on the Net” report last year, Freedom House classified Russia as “not free,” after citing continuous attempts by lawmakers to restrict content and prevent the Russians from keeping their online identities anonymous.