by: Odleen C.
Russian lawmakers approved Thursday a bill that would expand government control over the internet and whose opponents fear heralds a new era of widespread censorship. The bill would install equipment to route Russian internet traffic through servers in the country. That would increase the powers of state agencies and make it harder for users to circumvent government restrictions.
The proposed move sparked protests of several thousand people in Moscow last month. Opponents argue it would allow the state to control the flow of information and enforce blocks on messaging applications which refuse to hand over data.The bill’s backers have sought to play down the expanded powers for controlling traffic. Instead, they say it’s a defense measure in case Russia is cut off from the internet by the United States or other hostile powers.