Putin calls Internet a ‘CIA project’

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the Internet a “CIA project” that needed to be controlled, according to translation from The Associated Press.

At a forum in St. Petersburg on Thursday, Putin said that Russia needs to “fight for its interests” on the Web against the U.S. and other Western powers, the AP reported.

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He also criticized the Russian search engine Yandex, one of the country’s most successful tech firms, for registering in the Netherlands in an apparent attempt to elude Russian authorities.

Russian officials have taken several actions recently that could give the government more control over the Internet there.

The founder of Russia’s equivalent to Facebook, VKontakte, said he was fired Monday from his post, and the company is now under the “complete control” of Putin’s allies, according to former CEO Pavel Durov.

Durov has since reportedly fled Russia and has no plans to return.

Earlier this week, Russia’s parliament also passed a law that would bar global social media giants like Facebook and Skype from the country unless they keep their servers in the country and store information about Russian users for at least six months.

The data retention mandate, which Putin has yet to sign, would allow Russian agents to search the networks for information about a particular target. 

The Russian president last week denied that Russia had any grand domestic surveillance systems to watch how people behave online.

In a response to a question from former U.S. government contractor Edward Snowden, Putin said that the government has “some efforts” to track criminals and terrorists, but was not a “mass system of such interception.”

National security and intelligence analysts have disputed that account and say that one well-documented Russian program collects information about Internet traffic in the country.