Russia is one step closer to creating its own, independent internet—at least legally speaking.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law new measures that would enable the creation of a national network, able to operate separately from the rest of the world, according to documents posted on a government portal on Wednesday. For now, the network remains largely theoretical though, with few practical details disclosed.
In concept, the new law aims to protect Russia from foreign online restrictions by creating what the Kremlin calls a “sustainable, secure and fully functioning” local internet. The legislation takes effect in November, state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.
According to a summary from RIA-Novosti, the law calls for the creation of a monitoring and a management center supervised by Roskomnadzor, Russia’s telecoms agency. The state agency will be charged with ensuring the availability of communication services in Russia in extraordinary situations. During such situations, it would also be empowered to cut off external traffic exchange, creating a purely Russian web.
In addition, information from state entities and state-owned enterprises on the Internet will be protected via encryption, RIA-Novosti reported.
While Russia’s internet has faced restrictions in the past, it has tilted hard in the direction of greater domestic censorship in recent years. Activists fear an independent Russian internet would involve the creation of a Chinese-style national firewall to monitor and censor content passing in and out of the country.
The new law comes after Russian lawmakers advanced a package of legislation in March aimed at curtailing internet freedom allowing authorities to jail individuals for those who insult government officials online or spread fake news.
Homegrown technologies have also come under pressure in Russia. Last year, encrypted messaging app Telegram was banned in the country, and an intense blocking campaign was launched against it as users attempted to bypass the restrictions.