The Kremlin indicated that President Vladimir Putin supports new laws punishing online media for spreading “fake news” or material that insults state officials, the latest move in a broad crackdown on dissent in Russia.
The upper house of parliament passed the legislation in a near-unanimous vote, and will now send it to Putin for signing. The measures are “undoubtedly” necessary Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskovsaid.
“One can hardly agree with the view that this is some sort of censorship,” said Peskov, adding that the legislation has precedents in many other countries. The bills were passed days after thousands of people protested in Moscow against Kremlin plans to establish a “Sovereign internet” that would route online traffic mostly through domestic servers and exchanges. Opponents say the move will enable the authorities to cut off access to services such as Facebook and Google as well as websites containing criticism during periods of political unrest. The Kremlin says the measure is needed to safeguard Russia’s internet against potential US cyber attacks.
Russia has also demanded that social media services store data on Russian users inside the country and give access to encryption keys so that officials can monitor what people are doing online.