Moscow is trying to crackdown on the Internet in the wake of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's leaks about Washington's secret surveillance programs.
Russian officials are using the alleged violations of online privacy by the NSA's PRISM metadata collection program, disclosed by Snowden, and other electronic spying, to justify the effort, reports the Washington Free Beacon
One official, Sergei Zhelezhyak, deputy speaker of the Russian Duma, reportedly called for an investigation of what he called "unlawful access to Russian citizens' personal data by American companies and intelligence services," while another, Ruslan Gattarov, head of the Federation Council's Information Policy Committee, is supporting a plan to limit the placing of Russian data on foreign servers.
U.S. officials told the Beacon that the officials' comments are part of a campaign by Russian President Vladimir Putin's government to use Snowden's information to limit social media.
"The opposition relies on it for news and for communication, but as Internet usage grows, Putin may respond to the threat, and his regime has already created the legal and technical framework" for more controls," pro-democracy activist Garry Kasparov told the publication, noting the government has already shut down several sites, including opposition political sites.
"This is how they work, step by step," he said.
The Internet crackdown is apparently the latest step in a far-reaching crackdown on a free society that began when Putin returned to the presidency in May 2012. Human Rights Watch
in a recent report called it "unprecedented in the country's post-Soviet history."
"The authorities have introduced a series of restrictive laws, begun a nationwide campaign of invasive inspections of nongovernmental organizations, harassed, intimidated, and in a number of cases imprisoned political activists, and sought to cast government critics as clandestine enemies," said the organization.
"As for Snowden, I don't know if this will impact Putin's Internet agenda or just provide another excuse for more crackdowns," said Kasparov. "Really he doesn't even bother with excuses in this phase of his regime. But it's possible."
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