The new internet law approved and signed by President Vladimir Putin in July goes into effect today, allowing the government to ban websites containing what it considers harmful material for Russian citizens.
Despite supporters claim that the “Single Register” is meant to protect young people from child pornography and information about suicide and drug use, critics believe that it will be used to block opposition websites and gives the government the perfect tool to include on the blacklist all sites they choose, like those from political extremists.
For five years, regional prosecutors were requiring providers to block access to banned sites, but because it wasn't applied systematically, some sites are blocked in one region and are accessible in others. The Register will eliminate this situation.
The Roskomnadzor (the Agency for the Supervision of Information Technology, Communications and Mass Media) will be able to ban sites, but also data submitted by the Interior Ministry, the Federal Antidrug Agency and the Federal Service for the Supervision of Consumer Rights and Public Welfare.
Besides, the agency will be responsible of updating the law and also of ordering host providers to remove URLs.
This surveillance measure, along with others approved during this year restricting civic freedom and foreign influence, shows that “someone” in the Kremlin is worried about the durability of the system, according to several analysts.
"They're trying to lash out in ways to shore up what they think are their weak points”, told Jeffrey Mankoff, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to Voice of America. Mankoff added that it seems like the government does not have a plan for where to take the country and for convincing people they can get there.
"Putin's in power for at least another six years, but what he wants to do over the course of those six years seems completely undefined," he said.