Russian Duma Passes New Law to Prevent ‘Foreign Meddling’ in Internet

Russia’s lower house of Parliament approved Tuesday the third reading of a draft law aiming to increase the country’s sovereignty over its internet and defend against foreign cyber attacks, the State Duma confirmed in a tweet.


HackerOne of the new bill's aims is to defend against foreign cyber attacks. (Photo: Wikipedia, CC0 1.0)
An explanatory note included in the text of the bill says that the law is “prepared [to] tak[e] into account the aggressive nature of the US National Cyber ​​Security Strategy adopted in September 2018.” 

The law, an amendment to two existing federal laws concerning information technology and protection, creates an independent infrastructure for Runet (Russian-language Internet), allowing the use of domestic encryption methods for federal and local government agencies, state-owned municipal enterprises and state-owned municipal institutions. 

Telecom operators are also exempt from having to restrict access to sites with prohibited information, such as in cases when operators have installed “technical means of countering threats” in its network, Leonid Levin, chairman of the State Duma’s relevant information policy, information technology and communications committee, told the news agency Interfax. Currently, telecom operators must block all prohibited content themselves. 

The law seems to address allegations that the Russian government colluded with hackers to influence the results of the 2016 US presidential election, accusations the bill says are “unsubstantiated.” 

“Under these conditions, protective measures are necessary to ensure long-term and sustainable operation of the Internet in Russia, enhancing reliability of the Russian Internet resources,” the bill continues. 

The authors of the legislation are senators Andrei Klishas and Lyudmila Bokova, as well as State Duma deputy Andrei Lugovoi. Lugovoi is wanted by the United Kingdom on suspicion of the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB officer who received political asylum in Britain and died mysterious from polonium poisoning in 2006. 

The bill must now be approved by parliament’s upper house and the president before it becomes law. 

The amendment will not affect daily usage of the Internet for the average citizen, nor is it anti-Western, Levin assured Interfax, saying that “all the arguments that after the adoption of the law, the Internet in Russia will work, as in China, are incorrect and do not correspond to reality.” Russia, he said, “welcome[s]” Western services and works to “integrate” them. 

“The law is not adopted to block something that is not blocked today. It is about improving the work of the Russian Federation zone on the Internet more effectively,” Levin told Interfax. 

Russia, however, seems to be restricting its Internet more these days. 

Early last weekend the state media watchdog Roskomnadzor blocked a regional news website in the city of Yaroslavl over a report about graffiti that was deemed insulting of President Vladimir Putin, Reuters reported.

A new law signed by Putin last month places a ban on all online content deemed to display “blatant disrespect” to society, the state, official state symbols and the Russian constitution.