State Duma passes bill on Russia’s possible disconnecting from worldwide web

Picture by Sergei Elkin

On February 12, the lower house of the parliament passed the controversial bill on the ‘autonomous work of the Internet in Russia’ in its first reading. The document provides for measures to ensure the functioning of the Russian Internet segment (Runet) in the conditions of disconnecting from global servers.

The draft bill was presented to the State Duma at the end of 2018. In their explanation, its authors said that they had taken cognizance of ‘aggressive nature’ of the US national cyber security concept. The project will offer an opportunity to minimize sending abroad the data which Russian users exchange among themselves, the authors promise Many people believe the initiative might contribute to creating a kind of ‘iron curtain’ on the web.

According to independent media outlets, the bill will allow to block Russian users’ access to external Internet traffic, i.e. websites and services located on servers outside Russia, and to filter web content. On the other hand, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin assured that the initiative was not aimed at ‘closing and cutting off’, but ‘ensuring security’ on the Runet.

By now, it is not quite clear what way the project will be implemented. The authors mentioned the possibility of installing ‘technical means’ (i.e. programs or devices) that will restrict access to Internet resources containing information banned in Russia. It is the state who will reportedly provide Internet operators with these ‘technical means’.

The initiative faced much criticism, including from several government officials.

“The Russian authorities are ready to spend funds of unknown origin on blocking threats of unknown origin,” the newspaper Moskovski Komsomolets said on Tuesday.

Before the final adoption, the project is expected to be improved. The Audit Chamber, one of its critics, fears that the initiative may result in a hike in prices for goods and services. Moreover, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) warned that the implementation might lead to the collapse of the functioning of the communications network in Russia.

20 bn Russian rubles (about $ 305mln) are reported to be doled out on the project.

Officially, the project is part of a proposal to amend the laws on communications, IT and information protection; MP Andrei Lugovoi, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), being a co-author. Interestingly, the LDPR voted against it and called on Lugovoi to withdraw his signature. It should be recalled that the UK suspects Lugovoi, a former KGB and FSB agent, of poisoning Alexander Litvinenko in London.

State Duma adopts bill on showing ‘disrespect’ for authorities on web

pj/ wg PAP

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