The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Russia enacts ‘sovereign Internet’ law; free speech activists cry foul

MOSCOW — A law known as the “sovereign Internet” bill came into force Friday in Russia, tightening state control over the global network, which free speech activists say will strengthen government oversight of the country’s cyberspace.

The legislation aims to route Russian web traffic and data through points controlled by state authorities and to build a national Domain Name System to allow the Internet to continue working even if Russia is cut off from foreign infrastructure.

The bill’s authors have said that the measures are needed to defend Russia after the United States adopted what they described as aggressive new cybersecurity policies last year.

“The law is in line with the tendency we’ve been observing over the past seven years,” said Sarkis Darbinyan of Roskomsvoboda, a group that fights censorship on the Internet and promotes freedom of information. “This is the movement towards strict regulation of the Internet space, which scares the authorities.”

In recent years, Russian authorities have adopted rules, including stricter regulations on public protests, tightening their control over society, and effectively giving more powers to President Vladimir Putin.

The Russian government banned the Telegram instant messaging service and moved last year to block it, but the attempt failed, and the service is still popular and widely used among Russians.

The Digital Rights Center, a group of Russian cyberlaw attorneys, also said that the testing of the “sovereign Internet” law has not been successful so far because of technical challenges.