Study: A Major Portion of Russia Supports Internet Censorship

Internet regulation in Russia has seen an uptick since late 2011, with Putin also chipping away at Internet freedom in the nation since he returned to the Kremlin in 2012.


Photo: Presidential Press and Information Office

What’s interesting to note is that the majority of the Russian population is also endorsing a curb on internet freedoms, according to a new study cite by The Moscow Times.

According to a new poll by the Levada Center, an independent body, 54 percent of the respondents stated that there were enough websites posing a threat to mandate censorship while 31 percent of the respondents were against the regulation, and 16 percent were undecided.

However, there has been a decrease in approval if the latest poll is compared to a similar poll conducted in 2012, in which 63 percent of respondents supported restrictions on online freedom.

And in a recent poll, carried out over three days from September 26 to September 29 among 1,630 adult citizens across the country and having a 3.4 percent margin of error, only 15 percent stated they are in favor of a hypothetical bill that limits access to a global internet in Russia.

Of the respondents, 37 percent were not in favor of the idea, while the rest were uninterested.

Russia’s leadership has been reportedly holding a closed meeting to discuss the possibility of the nation’s disconnection from the global web. A spokesman for Kremlin said it was drafting a contingency plan in case the enemies of the nation cut off its segment of the Internet from the rest of the world.

The Latest in the Debate of Internet Regulation in Russia

The latest poll shows that the majority are in favor of Internet regulation, which is being imposed in several ways.

Earlier in July, a law was proposed to require all websites storing user data on Russian citizens to store that data inside Russian servers.

The logic was that websites will be barred from storing personal data of Russian users outside of the country, and it applies to a variety of websites, ranking from social networks to e-book services, affecting any online service or site operating on the notion of ‘user.’

In June, a law was signed allowing the government to hand down a five-year prison sentence to anyone who re-disseminates extremist material online. This particular ‘law against retweets’ is based on a current police practice, but the official notice could lead to an increase in the number of prosecutions.

A ‘bloggers law’ was also created with extensive requirements for governing the activity of prolific bloggers and data retention of certain online networks and websites. This law also created a new registry for citizen-media outlets with a daily audience of more than 3,000 people. Bloggers listed on the registry will undergo a series of regulations against libel, obscene language, and more, which increases their vulnerability to criminal prosecution.

Russia is continuing to expand its online capabilities and protect its information in a field it considers to be dominated by the United States. The bill on retaining user data follows a particular law enacted in February that provides Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communications regulator, the power to block websites deemed a threat to public order, without court notice.

When it comes to access to foreign services, Russians may soon be without the most popular social networks and services as relocating servers to Russia may not be a worthwhile investment for many foreign companies.