RFE/RL reports: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed controversial legislation prohibiting the use of Internet proxy services — including virtual private networks, or VPNs — and cracking down on the anonymous use of instant messaging services.
The law on proxy services, signed by Putin on July 29 and published by the government on July 30, was promoted by lawmakers who said it is needed to prevent the spread of extremist materials and ideas.
Critics say Putin’s government often uses that justification to suppress political dissent.
Almost all of the changes under the law are set to take effect on November 1, months ahead of a March 2018 presidential election in which Putin is widely expected to seek and win a new six-year term.
Under the law, Internet providers will be ordered to block websites that offer VPNs and other proxy services. Russians frequently use such websites to access blocked content by routing connections through servers abroad.
A second law also signed by Putin on July 29 — and published July 30 — will require operators of instant messaging services, such as messenger apps, to establish the identity of those using the services by their phone numbers. [Continue reading…]