Russian lawmakers approve measure to expand control of internet

Russian lawmakers approved a bill on Thursday to bolster government control of the internet, sparking fears among detractors of increased censorship.

The bill would help implement equipment across the country to route internet traffic through servers, making it more difficult for users to skirt government restrictions, according to The Associated Press.

ADVERTISEMENT

The legislation sparked widespread protests last month, attracting thousands of people who argued the government would be granted the power to control the flow of information and curtail messaging on platforms that do not give the government its data. Defenders of the bill in the Russian government have said it is intended to protect the country’s internet access should it be curtailed by the U.S. or other foreign powers. 

“It could be that in our limited, sovereign internet we will only be stronger,” Nikolai Zemtsov, a lawmaker who backed the bill, told the AP on Thursday. 

The bill passed by a 322-15 margin in the parliament’s lower house.

Fears were sparked last year when Russian authorities began trying to block the messaging app Telegram after it defied a court order and refused to give the government users’ encrypted messages. The social network platform LinkedIn was also blocked in 2016.

Russia already requires that certain personal information Russian citizens be saved on servers across the country.

The new move echoes a similar one in China, where roughly 700 million internet users are monitored and blocked from blocked from political and other content, including sites promoting gambling and pornography. They are also blocked from Western technology platforms like Facebook and Google.