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Putin Denies Ill Effects Of Internet Restrictions

Published: June 18, 2014 (Issue # 1816)



  • Sputnik.ru, a new Kremlin-backed Internet search engine, demonstrates Russia's recognition of the Internet as vital for the Russian economy.
    Photo: Sputnik.ru

On June 10, President Vladimir Putin known forbeing wary ofthe Internet, which he once called aCIA project recognized theindustry as animportant part ofthe Russian economy andsaid thegovernments restrictions onweb content will not restrict civil liberties.

The Internet has been transformed from a mere means of communication between people into a very profitable business in Russia, while the entire online sector accounts for 8.5 percent of the countrys gross domestic product, Putin said ata meeting with top industry managers, who used theopportunity totell thepresident about their professional triumphs andfailures.

With 61 million users, Russia is Europes fastest-growing Internet audience, according toa 2013 report byindustry body comScore, andsome key players inthe sector attribute this success toa lack ofstate interference.

Russia is one of the few Internet markets that boasts its own online services in almost every area. This was possible not because of some protection or support but because the industry was allowed to develop on its own in a competitive environment, said Arkady Volozh, founder and CEO of Yandex.

Russia has its own answers to Facebook, Google, and Amazon in the form of Vkontakte, Yandex and Ozon. The country now has a good chance of expanding its products to other markets, the executives said. This process is already under way.

Today you can go toIstanbul airport andfind out that taxi drivers are using Yandex.Probki [traffic service] tonavigate thecity, Volozh said.

He also said theexpansion ofYandexs presence outside Russia is vital because it can give Internet users more options.

Only four countries inthe world can choose between search engines. Forothers, there is only one service they can use, Volozh said.

Russian Internet giant Mail.Ru is also going global.

Thecompany is successfully growing inthe U.S., Canada andmany European countries andhas already forced anumber ofstart-ups fromthose markets, said Dmitry Grishin, co-founder andCEO ofMail.Ru Group.

Grishin said that Russian companies have competed well internationally because they were allowed to develop in an open and free environment. Most businessmen operating in the sector concur that contact with state authorities can only have a negative impact, he added.

Putin agreed that while excessive government interference is detrimental, at least some degree of Internet regulation is unavoidable.

Every day athird of our population uses theInternet one way or theother, which is what we are talking about here. Ofcourse it requires some regulation, theKremlins press-service cited Putin as saying.

Federal Mass Media Inspection Service already has theright toban websites containing extremist content without obtaining acourt order, prompting fears inthe Internet community that bloggers andopposition leaders would face increasing persecution.

Just last month Putin signed alaw requiring websites that attract more than 3,000 daily visits toregister with theregulator as amass media outlet. Search engines have already said they will refrain fromposting news ontheir websites if that demand is made ofthem.

However, anamendment that is currently under consideration would allow search engines tobe called news aggregators, which would exempt them fromthese procedures.

Putin said thegovernments restrictions are not aimed athurting businesses or violating peoples rights, but are meant toprotect children fromharmful influences onthe web.

We have debated these restrictions onpedophilia, onthe promotion ofdrugs, terrorism or advocating suicide alot, Putin said. But listen, we are all grown-ups, lets stop. Lets leave our children inpeace.





 


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