Russian Federation internet freedom: Thousands protest against cyber-security bill

Thousands of Russians march in protest against new 'internet iron curtain'

People attend a rally to protest against tightening state control over internet in Moscow, Russia March 10, 2019.

Protesters chanted slogans like "hands off the internet" and "no to isolation" as well as other gave speeches on the large stage.

Politicians last month backed the tighter internet controls contained in legislation they say is necessary to prevent foreign meddling in Russia's affairs.

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.

Critics said the draft law, which is widely expected to pass, would lead to censorship and create an "online Iron Curtain" that cuts Russians off from the rest of the world.

What's it all about: The "digital sovereignty bill" requires Russian telecom companies to be able to reroute all internet traffic to exchange points approved by Roskomnadzor, Russia's telecoms regulator.

"If we do nothing it will get worse".

Activists counting people said more than 15,000 people have turned up to listen to internet and media rights activists as well as music performers who have complained of government pressure in recent months.

The second reading is planned in March after which, if passed, the bill will need to be signed by the upper house of the parliament and then by President Vladimir Putin.

Protests over the same internet regulation also took off in the southern city of Voronezh and the far east city of Khabarovsk. Russian authorities have pressured Durov to hand over the company's encryption keys.

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

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.

A protester holds a placard reading "Putin lies" during an opposition rally in central Moscow, on March 10, 2019, to demand internet freedom in Russian Federation.

For a number of years now, the Russian government has attempted to curb internet access by instituting restrictions which block access to certain websites and messaging applications like Telegram.

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