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Russian lawmakers back bill on ‘sovereign’ Internet

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian lawmakers back tighter Internet controls on Tuesday to defend it against foreign interference in the design of legislation that critics warn could disrupt Russia’s Internet and are used to criticism, to stifle.

FILE PHOTO: People are silhouetted as they pose with laptops in front of a screen projected with binary code and a Russian national flag in this illustration picture in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, October 29, 2014. REUTERS/dado Ruvic/File Photo

The legislation, which a number of Russian media have compared to an online “iron curtain” was the first of three readings in the 450-seat second chamber of parliament.

The bill aims to route Russian web traffic and data by the points monitored by the national authorities, and allows for the building of a national Domain Name System for the Internet to continue to function, even if the country is cut off from foreign infrastructure.

The legislation was drafted in response to what the authors describe as an aggressive U.S. national cyber security strategy, passed last year.

The Agora human rights group said earlier this month that the legislation was one of a number of new accounts written in December that “pose a serious threat to the freedom of the Internet”.

The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, has said that the bill poses more of a risk for the functioning of the Russian Internet segment than the alleged threats from abroad that the bill aims to combat.

The bill also proposes the installation of the equipment in the network that would be able to identify the source of web traffic, and block prohibited content.

The legislation, which can still be changed, but that is expected, is part of the drive by officials to increase Russian “sovereignty” over its Internet segment.

Russia has introduced tougher Internet laws in the last five years, with the search engines to remove search results, messaging services to share encryption keys with security services, and social networks to store Russian users’ personal data on servers within the country.

The bill faces more votes in the second chamber, before it is voted on in the house of lords of the parliament and then signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Maria Kolomychenko; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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