New Law Brings Russia One Step Closer to a 'Closed Internet'

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Russia's lower house of parliament has formally passed a law forcing internet companies to store the personal information of Russian citizens on Russian-based servers. The government argues this new law will protect the data of their citizens, however, the law is much more for the benefit of the surveillance-heavy government than the Russian people.

With this law, government officials will be able to access anything their citizens say, post, and view online with great ease. This deeply affects social media as well, which seemed to be the direct target of the new Kremlin law. While Google has a server in Russia, other websites would also need to create fully accessible databases there to suit the requirements of the law. Russians who do not support Vladimir Putin have been known to communicate via Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, which often post personal information meant to disgrace corrupt politicians. 

Experts believe the law will successfully create a closed Internet system within Russia, though few Russians have spoken out on the matter. Russian blogger and digital expert Anton Nossik told Reuters, "The aim of this law is to create... (another) quasi-legal pretext to close Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all other services. The ultimate goal is to shut mouths, enforce censorship in the country and shape a situation where internet business would not be able to exist and function properly."

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Outside of Nossik, other news publications within Russia are reporting that the law passed, however, they have not confronted the in-country outrage about limiting social media access. Alternatively, Ukrainian-based Unian reports, "The new law has caused outrage among Internet users, as it can easily be used selectively closing objectionable sites or under its scope can get a large part of the global network and the Russians left without social networks, foreign online stores and electronic payment systems."

The law still has to be passed by the upper house of parliament and signed by Putin himself. If this occurs, which it likely will, it will take affect in September 2016. This will allow the websites enough time to comply with the new server regulations, and the government enough time to close off access to websites who refuse. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.