Bill to route internet through Russian servers spurs protest

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Bill to route internet through Russian servers spurs protest

Thousands of people rallied against Russia's increasingly restrictive internet policies on Sunday which some say will eventually lead to "total censorship" and isolate the country from the world.

The rally gathered around 15,300 people, according to White Counter, an NGO that counts participants at rallies. Police put the figure at 6,500.

At least 16 people were arrested ahead of the protests, which were authorized by authorities. Eight of them were detained for using "floating devices" when they released blue balloons in a sign of protest, according to Russian news agency Interfax, citing protest organizers, reported DW.

The legislation has already been approved by Russian lawmakers, but has to pass through a couple of other stages before it becomes law.

Critics have dubbed it an "internet iron curtain" that will make it easier to censor politically-unfavorable content. "We are part of the civilized world", a statement from the Libertarian Party said.

"Everyone is in favor of internet freedom - the authors of the bill, the presidential administration and the government", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists. There were protests a year ago when the encrypted messaging app Telegram was banned by authorities who said it was being used by terrorists.

Nikolai Lyaskin, an aide to opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, called the bill yet another step by the authorities to "tighten the screws" on Internet freedom, and urged the Russians to rally against "this madness".

It seeks to stop the country's internet traffic being routed through foreign servers.

"North Korea's experience shows that a totally autonomous internet is possible", Kozlyuk said, noting that a Chinese-style firewall to filter inbound and outbound internet traffic would cost too much, comparatively.

Clampdown: The new bill is part of wider plans by Russian Federation to have more oversight of what happens online.

In 2014, the Russian parliament passed a law forcing bloggers with more than 3,000 daily viewers to register as a media organization, bringing them under state regulation.

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