Russian President Putin has recently approved legal amendments that pose a severe threat to online anonymity, freedom of speech, and innovation. These amendments require internet platforms to verify the identities of new users using state-approved systems before granting access. Offering advice on circumventing these regulations using VPNs will be considered a criminal offense. Additionally, specific email services like Gmail will be banned, and hosting companies not approved by the government will be deemed illegal.
These draconian measures are part of a broader trend of aggressive anti-Western legislative proposals in Russia since the invasion of Ukraine in February. The government aims to restrict access to foreign content and control the internet within its borders. These laws are paving the way for a dystopian future, eroding privacy and free expression online, and forcing citizens, companies, and investors to reconsider their association with the country’s internet space.
The amendments call for hosting companies to comply with stringent regulations and obtain state approval. They will also be required to monitor and prevent any activities the government deems objectionable on their platforms. Failure to comply could lead to exclusion from the register of approved companies, effectively preventing them from doing business in Russia.
While VPNs are not outright banned, their use for circumvention purposes and any related advice will be criminalized. The Russian government has already imposed stringent requirements on VPN providers, leading most mainstream providers to exit the market, leaving only compliant companies that might potentially be under government influence.
Furthermore, news aggregator platforms will operate under the control of the Russian government, raising concerns about press freedom and the dissemination of information.
Overall, these legal amendments signal a disturbing trend towards a heavily controlled and monitored internet space in Russia, with severe implications for privacy, freedom of expression, and access to information.