MOSCOW – Russians took to the streets of Moscow to denounce a bill that critics say could lead to digital censorship and would increase the state’s grip over the Internet, a Russian opposition party told reporters on Sunday.
Demonstrators backed by the Russian Libertarian party were protesting the so-called “sovereign Internet” bill which the lower chamber of Russian lawmaking has passed and which faced a further two votes in the State Duma, the lower house, before it is voted on in the Council of the Federation, the upper house.
Members of the Libertarian party told local media that at least 8 people had been arrested for the alleged use of “flying apparatuses” which members of the political party said were balloons.
On the other hand, the OVD-Info organization, which was launched in 2011 by volunteers as a means of monitoring arrests during mass protests in Russia, said that 16 people had been arrested, including three minors.
OVD-Info said there were two protesters being held at a Moscow police station.
The organizers of the protest were expecting some 10,000 people to attend the rally.
Moscow authorities authorized the demonstration.
Alex Navalny, leader of the opposition, as well as Pavel Durov, a Russian entrepreneur, were both supporting the protest.
Durov, who has founded a social networking site and created a messaging service called Telegram, was targeted by the Kremlin when it banned his messaging application from being used in the country.
The communications bill, which has been heavily criticized by Internet operators, was designed to protect Russia’s internet from foreign hacking and meddling.
In practice the bill, if passed, would reroute Russian web traffic to government-controlled entry points.
The bill also wants to create a national Domain Name System, a naming system for computers, digital services and resources that are connected to the Internet.
Defenders of the bill said that if it were to be approved it would reduce “the flux of data that Russian nationals share to foreign countries.”
If Russian digital services were to come under attack, under this new bill, Internet providers would be obliged to guarantee centralized, state-controlled management of the Internet.
President Vladimir Putin has, in the past, alluded to the fact his country could disconnect from the World Wide Web if external threats were to risk the safety and security of his nation.