Russia needs 'China-style' web controls: official

14th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia needs Chinese-style government regulation of the Internet, a top official said Wednesday, after election protesters organised nationwide rallies through social networking sites.

"We cannot ignore the use of the Internet by criminals and terrorist groups," Russia's Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev said in an interview with Argumenty i Fakty newspaper.

"Of course there should be reasonable regulation in Russia, just as it is done in the United States, China and many other countries."

The Internet has become a vital resource in Russia to coordinate protests, including a rally that drew tens of thousands of people at the weekend disputing parliamentary polls won by Vladimir Putin's ruling party.

Russia in September became the European country with the largest number of Internet users, according to Comscore ratings agency, and the use of blogs and social networking sites has boomed in recent years.

Rights activist Lev Ponomaryov linked Patrushev's proposal to the protests and warned that a crackdown on the Internet would only provoke more public anger ahead of a new mass opposition rally planned this month.

"It's very significant that such proposals are being voiced after the mass rally in Moscow and ahead of another protest planned for December 24," Ponomaryov of For Human Rights movement told the Interfax news agency.

Restrictions on Internet freedoms would "provoke additional tensions in society," he said.

China regulates the Internet by blocking websites it deems politically sensitive and last month backed stricter controls on social networking sites.

Patrushev worked as a KGB counterintelligence agent and then headed the FSB, the KGB's successor organisation, from 1999 to 2008.

In April, a top FSB official told a cabinet meeting he was "increasingly concerned" by sites using foreign encryption technology, such as Skype and Gmail, but the service later officially denied plans for a ban.

A number of Russian organisations are calling for tighter control of the Internet to prevent child pornography, much of which originates in Russia.

One campaign group with FSB backing, the Safe Internet League, has drafted a bill that would block child pornography and content deemed to promote drug taking and extremism, the Vedomosti business daily reported Wednesday.

© 2011 AFP

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