News Brief

Russia Targets Internet ‘Undesirables’

Russia’s internet censor may soon have additional powers to target people trying to circumvent its restrictions. Under a new law being discussed in the Duma, Russia’s parliament, the communications watchdog Rozkomnadzor will be allowed to block any content classified as “undesirable” without court approval, according to the website Meduza.

As Coda reported last month, Roskomnadzor is central to the Kremlin’s efforts to control what information Russians receive – and it has already blocked tens of thousands of websites.

In effect, the Duma is seeking to update existing laws governing the agency’s powers — in response to the Kremlin proscribing 11 so-called “undesirable organizations,” which it deemed a threat to national security.

Drawn up in 2015, the list is virtually a roll-call of the government’s favorite Western bugbears, including the US-based National Endowment for Democracy and the Open Society Institute. Organizations labelled “undesirable” are prohibited from disseminating information inside Russia, including on the internet.

But under existing legislation, State Duma deputies are reportedly concerned that Roskomnadzor would have to get a judicial green light before blocking any content from these proscribed groups. If the new law goes through, the watchdog will be free to act when it wants.