Russia is tightening control over the Internet as it introduces new rules that require people to provide an ID before using public Wi-Fi hotspots.
The decree, which became official after it was signed by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, is the latest in a string of laws that the country has introduced to exercise more control over the Internet.
Earlier this month, the country introduced a new rule that imposes the restrictions on traditional media outlets like newspapers and magazines on bloggers with more than 3,000 followers. According to the law, which took effect on Aug. 1, bloggers with a wide following must first obtain registration from the government.
The country also recently imposed new requirements for websites in relation to the location of their servers. By 2016, websites that operate in Russia must have their servers inside the country.
Since being publicized on Friday, Aug. 8, the new law has inspired opposition from free-speech advocates inside and outside Russia. Critics of the decree say that the new rule is meant to silence dissent on the Internet. There are similar laws that are in effect in a number of European countries, but civil liberties groups say that Russia, considering its previous rules for Internet regulation, raises a lot of concerns with its application of such rules.
"If you look at it in in the context of everything else that has been going on in the area of Internet regulation in Russia lately -- the blogger law, the ban on keeping data of Russian Internet users on foreign servers -- this is perceived as a threat by the Russian Internet community," Human Rights Watch Russia Program Director Tanya Lokshina told the Wall Street Journal.
Vadim Dengin, the deputy chair of Russia's information technology committee, told Reuters that the decree is needed to prevent propaganda attacks against the Russian government.
Perhaps due to the push-back that the law got from Internet users in Russia, the country is seemingly backing off on imposing the ID requirement. Last Friday, Russian authorities said that the decree may end up being changed.
"The government's order originates from the country's law on information, information technologies and information protection," Natalya Timakova, Medvedev's press secretary, told ITAR-TASS News Agency.
She adds that as the government "studies the practice of using the law, it may, should it be required, draft and adopt necessary changes."