News Brief

Russia moves closer to cutting citizens from the global Internet

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law measures intended to cut Russia from the World Wide Web, something that government officials say it’s good for national security but that critics say increases censorship.

Russia has, in the past, enforced crackdowns on online use and content, such as prohibiting the use of VPNs, and banning the encrypted messaging app Telegram. But the new law is the most radical re-evaluation of what it means to be a Russian Internet user, as it would allow the Kremlin to monitor and censor every scrap of content searched for and consumed within Russian territory, like China’s Great Firewall.

The law, which goes into effect in November, will curtail the use of existing international digital networks by bringing routing points — across which online data travels — onto Russian territory.

Few details have been released about how this will be implemented, and the government has not disclosed many practical implications of the law.

In a Kremlin document  published Wednesday on the government portal for legal information, the government described a “sustainable, secure and fully functioning” Russian Internet.

Government officials have previously said that the law will keep Russia safe from offense cyber attacks. Last month Leonid Levin, a government official from the ruling United Russia party rejected the criticism that the law is intended as a crackdown.“The bill’s popular name, the Chinese Firewall, has nothing to do with our initiative,” he said.

This law follows a legislative move in March which allowed the Russian government to fine and imprison users who speak out against the Kremlin or spread disinformation.

According to Russian state news agencies, the law also establishes a centralized Internet monitoring body, which will oversee domestic online activity.

The body, called the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media will be managed by the Russian Internet regulator Roskomnadzor, which will be responsible for controlling the internet and, if necessary, blocking communication and sites from sources outside Russia to create an exclusively Russian web.