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Russia tightens control on national internet

運営事務局 JIMOPLE 34 November 1, 2019
A protester holds a placard reading "Putin - No!" during an opposition rally in central Moscow, on 10 March Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A placard reading "Putin No" is held during a protest against the law in March

A law introducing new controls on the internet has come into force in Russia amid concerns it may be used by the government to silence its critics.

In theory, the "sovereign internet" law gives officials wide-ranging powers to restrict traffic on the Russian web.

The Kremlin has said the law will improve cyber-security. A spokesman said users would not notice any change.

Experts say it is unclear how the powers might be used, or how effectively they can be implemented.

Critics fear the Kremlin will try to create an internet firewall similar to that in China, which tries to eliminate prohibited traffic.

The law requires internet service providers to install network equipment capable of identifying the source of web traffic and filter content. In practice, this will allow the Russian telecommunications watchdog to be more effective at blocking sites.

It also gives the Kremlin the possibility to switch off connections completely to the worldwide web "in an emergency," as the text puts it.

Additionally, it seeks to route the country's web traffic and data through state-controlled points, reducing Russian reliance on foreign servers. Supporters say it will protect the system from hostile attacks from abroad.

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Media captionHow Russia wants to control the internet

US intelligence has said Russia used the internet to interfere in the US 2016 presidential election, an allegation Moscow denies.

This is the latest in a swathe of tougher internet laws approved by Russia. Earlier this year, parliament passed two bills outlawing "disrespect" of authorities and the spread of what the government deemed to be "fake news".

Why are there concerns?

Campaigners say the law is an attempt to increase censorship, building on the internet legislation that already curtails freedom of expression and privacy.

"Now the government can directly censor content or even turn Russia's internet into a closed system without telling the public what they are doing or why," said Rachel Denber, Human Rights Watch's deputy Europe and Central Asia director.

In March, thousands of people protested in the capital, Moscow, against the law.