Thousands of individuals in various Russian cities like Moscow took to the streets to stand against the legislation as they are afraid of widespread internet censorship across the country.
These protests are one of the biggest in the Russian capital history, to which, demonstrations came in response to a bill in parliament that is expected to route all internet traffic with the help of servers in Russia which will result in ineffectiveness of virtual private networks (VPNs).
According to critics, the bill would build an internet firewall identical to China’s, declaring it an online “iron curtain”, but advocates supporting the step says it is an essential step to safeguard the country from state-backed cyber attacks.
Lawmakers of Russia agreed and passed the bill through the first of three reading in the Duma which is the lower house of parliament.
Crowd gathered in a cordoned off Prospekt Sakharova in Moscow, chanted slogans like “hands off the internet” and made some articulate speeches on a stage and even repeated slogans like “no to isolation, stop breaking the Russian internet”.
According to White Counter, an NGO that counts participants at rallies affirmed that the rally was able to attract huge mass comprising at least 15,300 people. Moscow police put the numbers at 6,500.
“If we do nothing it will get worse. The authorities will keep following their own way and the point of no return will be passed”, said protester Dmitry, who declined to give his full name.’
However, activists of the opposition said on Twitter that police has probably detained 15people at the Moscow rally, seizing their balloons and banners. Till now, police have not declared any detentions.
The protests in Moscow, the southern city of Voronezh and Khabarovsk in the far east had all been officially authorised. Few of activists in St Petersburg came out to the streets without even taking the authorities’ consent.
In the recent years, Russia has tried to control internet freedoms by preventing access to some of the websites and messaging services like Telegram.
Out of the three readings, on the first one, February’s bill passed in the Russian parliament. It find a way to Russian web traffic and data with help of points handled by the state and put forward a proposal for creating a national domain name system to permit the internet to keep functioning even if the nation is cut off from outside infrastructure.
In March, the second reading is anticipated to take place, after which, if passed, the bill required to be signed by the upper house of the parliament after which needs to be signed by president Vladimir Putin.