Following our report that the Russian Duma was considering a “Sovereign Internet” bill, we can now report further progress. On 11 April, the second reading of the bill was passed by 320 votes to just 15. The bill is now expected to become law on 1 November 2019.
At first sight, the margin of victory is perhaps a little surprising. Opponents of the bill, and even government advisors, have pointed out that, far from protecting Russia, installing these measures could hit the Russian economy to the tune of 20 Billion roubles per day. However, the Kremlin is determined to have this law and in Russia today what the Kremlin wants, the Kremlin gets.
The Kremlin wants this law because it will require Russian ISPs to install monitoring hardware. This hardware is supposed to make it easier to isolate Russian traffic. In fact the hardware will also make it easier to monitor exactly what Russian citizens are using the internet for. This will in turn make censorship more effective.
The hardware is being provided by Roskomnadzor, a Kremlin controlled body. The Duma was told that Roskomnadzor’s monitoring will ensure the “sustainable, safe and holistic functioning” of Runet. But the press release from state news agency TASS also made it clear that Roskomnadzor “may exercise centralised management of the public telecommunications network” i.e. state control of the Russian internet.
The Kremlin has already banned Wikipedia, Linked In and Telegram (among others). It would like to go further in order to tighten its grip on dissent. This new law will give the Kremlin that capability.