Putin signs Russian internet isolation bill into law

The controversial law will now go into effect on 1 November

Photo: EPA Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed the law on providing "stable operation of the Russian Internet (Runet) in case it is disconnected from the global infrastructure of the World Wide Web", Russia's TASS news agency reported on Wednesday. The move, however is also aimed at tightening government control over the internet.

Under the legislation, assuming it actually works in practice, the government would deal with "threats to the stable, safe and integral operation of the Russian Internet on Russian territory" by centralising "the general communications network." Put more simply, the law requires internet service providers in Russia to unplug from foreign servers, setting in train plans for an alternative domain name system (DNS) for the country. The creation of a national domain system would also allow the country to stay online in case it is disconnected from the global network infrastructure World Wide Web, or, one assumes, in the event that its politicians deem disconnection to be beneficial. 

The new bill is however, disapproved by 52% of the Russian citizens, according to a recent state-funded poll. It is mainly because the law would provide for central control of all internet traffic, and in essence, remove the need for data to be sent to and received from overseas servers. This control would clearly introduce traffic monitoring and stark censorship of sites that could be visited by Russian users.

And Russia's internet freedoms are already in a dismal state. The Russian government already blocks websites, limits the use of VPNs, and designates media outlets that receive foreign funding as "foreign agents." Last year, a Russian court ruled that the nation could ban the encrypted messaging app Telegram. In its 2018 "Freedom on the Net" report, Freedom House classified Russia as "not free," citing continuous efforts by lawmakers to restrict content and prevent Russians from keeping their online identities anonymous.

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