Thousands protest in Moscow against Russia's cyber-security bill

Ruben Fields
March 12, 2019

A protester holds a placard reading "Putin - No!" at the rally in central Moscow. A petition against the bill launched by the Roskomsvoboda internet freedoms group calls on Russians to appeal to lawmakers to strike the bill down, "otherwise soon we will be living in anti-utopias of Orwell", it says.

Thousands of people rallied on the streets of Moscow over the weekend against the proposed Sovereign Internet bill.

But campaigners say it is an attempt to increase censorship and stifle dissent.

Protesters chanted "hands off the internet" and "no to isolation, stop breaking the Russian Internet" in what Reuters described as the biggest protesters in the Russian capital in years.

According to other activists on Twitter, 15 protesters from the Moscow rally have been detained by authorities, but the Russian police force has yet to officially announce any arrests.

"The government is battling freedom, including freedom on the internet", said one speaker, Sergei Boiko, an internet activist from Siberia. He added, "I can tell you this as somebody who spent a month in jail for a tweet". Interfax news agency put the number at 6,500.

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The bill calls for the creation of a system that would protect Russian Federation in the event of cyberwar while also filtering Internet traffic to the country, but there has been debate about how realistic that is and how much it would cost.

A second parliamentary vote on the bill is scheduled for later this month is likely to be passed.

Russian Federation has in recent years attempted to curb internet freedoms by blocking access to certain websites and messaging services such as Telegram.

On Thursday, its parliament passed two bills outlawing "disrespect" of authorities and the spreading of what the government deems to be "fake news".

Advocates say the bill is meant to address concerns that Russian Federation could be cut off if the United States applies a new cybersecurity doctrine in an offensive maneuver.

Russia's main security agency, the FSB, said at the time that Telegram was the messenger of choice for "international terrorist organisations in Russia".

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