Central regions | Finance, business

Russian lawmakers propose restrictions on VPN, Internet search engines

9 Jun '17
A draft bill was submitted yesterday in the State Duma, the lower house of Russian Parliament, in an effort to ban Internet search engines and providers of virtual private network services (VPN), Internet anonymizers and other online services from granting users access to websites that are banned by Russian authorities, the US-Russia Business Council reported, citing a source in the Russian business daily Kommersant.

The initiative comes from lawmakers representing United Russia, Just Russia and the Communist Party, three of the Duma’s pro-Kremlin parties.

Russia’s media and internet watchdog Roskomnadzor maintains a list of websites that are banned under Russia’s law on anti-extremism and other laws. Specifically, the proposed bill would require that web search engines prevent URLs of banned websites from appearing in search results. Violating the ban would carry a fine of up to $12,300.

The bill’s sponsors said in an explanatory note that Russia’s existing system to block illegal web content was insufficient, with search engines and other Internet services based outside of Russia “allowing users to gain access to blocked resources.” Russia’s Internet ombudsman Dmitry Marinichev criticized the proposed bill as “running counter to common sense.” He argued that authorities would be unable to differentiate between VPN services’ use for commercial purposes and for circumventing content restrictions. Some Russian Internet executives described the proposed requirement for online search engines to filter search results as “excessive.”
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