By Ilya Khrennikov and Anastasia Ustinova
With Russia locked in the worst standoff with the U.S. since the Cold War, the Russian president last week said his government needs to impose greater control over information flows through the World Wide Web, which the former KGB colonel called a creation of U.S. spy agencies.
Putin’s comments came after the lower house of parliament approved a draft law requiring Internet companies such as Google to locate servers handling Russian traffic inside the country, similar to Chinese rules, and store user data for six months. The legislation, which was passed by the upper house yesterday and needs Putin’s signature to become law on Aug. 1, also classifies bloggers with 3,000 or more readers — about 30,000 people — as “media” outlets, making them and their hosts liable for content and subject to regulation.
“This law is a step toward segmenting and nationalizing the Internet and putting it under the Kremlin’s control,” Matthew Schaaf, a program officer at Washington-based research group Freedom House, said by e-mail. “It could have a serious chilling effect on online expression in Russia, making users stop to think how their Google searches and Facebook posts could be used against them.”