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Russia Turns the Screws on Internet Freedom


Tuesday, 15 October 2019 10:57 WIB

Global


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New legislation likely to be introduced next month in Russia's Duma, or lower chamber of parliament, would see tighter restrictions on the internet and on computers, tablets and other devices used to access the internet.

The proposals include a provision for the identification of all email users and a requirement for new internet-able devices to be sold with pre-installed Russian software — a legal obligation that could stop Apple, which won't install non-Apple software on its products, from selling computers and laptops in Russia.

When the details of the legislation were first revealed last week, most media attention was focused on the proposal to limit to 20 percent the share foreign investors can own in Russian tech companies, a provision analysts calculated was aimed at Russia's largest internet company, Yandex.

On Friday, Yandex saw  the value of its shares plunge more than 18 percent on the Wall Street stock exchange, the steepest decline in a year. Yandex owns the most popular Russian search engine and provides other online-based services, including food delivery and taxis.

While the proposed ownership limiting foreign stakes in IT companies immediately alarmed foreign stock markets, the other provisions are adding to a slow burn of doubt with investors fearing further tech and internet restrictions will make it increasingly difficult to do business in Russia — or to do so ethically.

For rights campaigners and anti-Kremlin opposition groups, the entire package — which was drafted by pro-Kremlin lawmakers, but which local media say has the backing of the Russian government — amounts to a tightening of control by the authorities of the internet and a further enhancement of their ability to monitor online activity.

The government has been ramping up its internet regulations, seeking to exercise greater control over its physical infrastructure as well and regulate the content that can be accessed by Russians. In the past few years, it has required search engines to delete some search results and oblige messaging services to share encryption keys with security services.

In March, President Vladimir Putin signed two measures into law, one banning the publication of "unreliable, socially significant information" on the internet and another introducing fines and jail time for internet users who "disrespect" the authorities.

Source : VOA


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