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Russian Internet 'One Step Away' From Chinese-Style Firewall

Published: April 29, 2014 (Issue # 1807)



  • Legislators want to oblige social networks like Twitter and Facebook to keep their servers in Russia and store users' information for at least six months.
    Photo: Vedomosti

Amid growing criticism of its increasingly tighter regulation of the Internet, Russia's official media watchdog on Monday vowed to continue its fight in the "information war," saying freedom of speech "does not mean everything is permitted."

The government made clear at an annual meeting of top officials of the Federal Mass Media Inspection Service, or Roskomnadzor, that it intended to boost its legal regulatory grip over the Internet and mass media, citing a need to protect the majority of the population from harmful information.

The agency's head, Alexander Zharov, told The St. Petersburg Times that "it is very important to realize the aim for free speech, but freedom of speech does not mean that everything is permitted."

Zharov's comments came just days after President Vladimir Putin said the Internet was a "special project of the CIA," a statement which was met with sharp criticism amid growing tensions between Russia and the U.S. and fears of a second Cold War.

Roskomnadzor currently blocks access to 2,132 websites, but at least 56,000 more are blocked only because they share an IP address with the one on the blacklist. Access to a website can be restricted if its content can harm children or if it contains information that infringes upon intellectual property. Russian laws also allow state agencies to block websites without a court order if they promote extremism, suicide or illegal drugs, or call on people to come to unsanctioned protest rallies.

Roskomnadzor is the main Russian agency responsible for executing the recently passed legislation regulating the Internet. Various officials from the media watchdog echoed the belief that the Internet required such firm regulation, saying during the meeting and on the sidelines that a lack of regulation could be dangerous for the public. The officials did not offer suggestions on how to balance regulation and freedom of speech.

State Duma Deputy Sergei Zheleznyak, in his speech to dozens of high-ranking officials, described the situation as an "information war" that posed a threat to Russia.

"Roskomnadzor stands at the forefront of the information war that was unleashed against our country and our values," Zheleznyak said.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russia’s most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkin’s, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontov’s short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library System’s website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Club’s weekly meeting tonight at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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