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Russia carries out censorship drills to ensure internet ‘integrity’

Russian President Vladimir Putin during an interview in July 2018. (Kremlin/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia has carried out what it described as exercises to ensure the security of its Internet infrastructure as part of measures that activists say could tighten censorship.

The so-called “sovereign Internet” law, adopted by lawmakers and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin earlier this year, requires providers to install equipment that could route Russian web traffic through points that are controlled by the state.

It also includes provisions on the creation of a Russian domestic domain-name system.

Backers of the law say it will make what they call the Russian segment of the Internet — known as Runet — more independent. They argue the law is needed to guard Russia against potential cyberattacks.

But critics have warned the law will lead to censorship across wide parts of the Internet and allow for greater surveillance of Internet users by Russian intelligence agencies.

The Russian Communications Ministry said on December 23 that the drills were aimed at ensuring the “integrity” of the Internet.

“The purpose of the task is to ensure the reliable operation of the Internet in Russia in any conditions and under any circumstances,” said Aleksei Sokolov, deputy communications minister, in televised remarks on December 23 from the Monitoring and Cyber Threat Response Center.

State-controlled channel Rossiya 24 said the authorities had in fact been conducting the tests for the past two weeks and the results were expected to be announced later on December 23.