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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

Tuesday, Jan. 27


Celebrate the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.



Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekov's book will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.





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