Thousands protest Russias ‘internet isolation

Thousands protest Russias ‘internet isolation”

A protester holds a flag during the demonstration in Moscow on Sunday.

"Everyone is in favor of internet freedom - the authors of the bill, the presidential administration and the government", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

The anger has been growing in recent weeks, and in the latest protests, thousands of people took to the streets of Moscow and two other cities to rally against the proposed changes. But some Russian media likened it to an online "iron curtain" and critics say it can be used to stifle dissent. They chanted slogans such as "hands off the internet" and "no to isolation, stop breaking the Russian internet", according to Reuters.

In a statement acquired by Reuters, one of the protesters who wishes to remain anonymous said, "If we do nothing it will get worse". On the other hand, the Moscow police estimated the number to be around 6,500. "The authorities will keep following their own way and the point of no return will be passed".

Opposition activists said on Twitter that police had detained 15 people at the Moscow rally, confiscating their banners and balloons.

The name Roskomsvoboda is short for Russian Freedom Committee and plays off Roskomnadzor, the name of the state communications, Internet, and media oversight agency.

A message in Russian on its official account said that the bill on internet centralisation aims to "cut off Russia from the rest of the world, after which they can block foreign social networks and messengers". It proposes the establishment of a center to "ensure and control the routing of internet traffic" in the country. A second reading will take place in March, and if it passes again, the upper house of the parliament will need to sign it off, before President Vladimir Putin officially rubber stamps it.

Russian Federation has introduced a swathe of tougher internet laws in recent years.

The bill has reportedly also been passed in the Russian parliament on the first reading out of three.

And a year ago, campaigners took to the streets to protest the media watchdog's attempt to shut down the encrypted messaging service, Telegram.

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