Thousands of Russians protest against tighter internet restrictions

Laws designed to tighten control on the internet attracted thousands of activists in Moscow and other Russian cities last weekend.

Russia’s parliament has already backed the new legislation, but it has to pass several other stages before it can officially become law.

Russia is not the only country that plans to tighten its grip on internet freedom, other Western countries are already implementing stricter regulations.

The UK, for instance, passed the controversial Investigatory Powers Act, nicknamed the Snoopers’ Charter, back in 2016.

Russian Politicians approved the tighter internet controls contained in legislation last month. They said that the law is necessary to prevent foreign meddling in Russia’s affairs.

Russian protests

According to a Reuters report, lawmakers say the legislation will improve security and increase Russia’s “sovereignty” over its internet presence.

It seeks to route Russian web traffic and data through points that are controlled by the state and proposes building a national domain name system to allow the internet to continue functioning even if the country is cut off from foreign infrastructure.

The bill has passed the first of three readings in the Duma, the lower house of parliament.

The second reading is scheduled to take place this month, and if it passes, the upper house of parliament will need to sign it off, before it’s passed onto president Vladimir Putin to sign.

Around 15,300 people protested against the introduction of the bill on the weekend and reportedly made speeches on stage and chanted slogans such as “hands off the internet” and “no to isolation, stop breaking the Russian internet”.

“If we do nothing it will get worse. The authorities will keep following their own way and the point of no return will be passed”, said 28-year-old protester Dmitry, who declined to give his full name to Reuters.

According to the report, Moscow authorities said the protests only involved 6,500 and 15 people had been detained at the Moscow Rally.

Other authorised protests took place in the cities of Voronezh and Khabarovsk. A handful of activists in St. Petersburg also protested without the authorities’ consent.

Internet freedom

Russia has in recent years attempted to curb internet freedom by banning the use of messaging app Telegram in the country.

Russia chose to ban the app after Telegram refused to give the government access to its users’ secret messages by handing over the encryption keys used to scramble messages.

Russia’s regulator Roskomnadzor (RKN) has also been pressuring foreign social media network firms like Facebook, to store user data in the country.

In 2018, the Russian government also passed another legislation to allow RKN to fine search engines that fail to link to sites found in its registry.

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