Russians face internet Iron Curtain

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Russian government officials are proposing tough censorship laws for the country's 29 million internet users..

State newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported that prosecutors have proposed an amendment to bring the internet under the same rules as traditional media "within a month".

The ruling would give authorities the power to force ISPs to block sites containing "extremist material", and to shut down domestic sites that carry such material.

In the recent past this has included cartoons lampooning the Putin government.

"It is a worry whenever the government tries to change any law," Oleg Panfilov, director of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, told Agence France-Presse.

"It is difficult to find anyone who is not against extremism, but it depends on how the law is used. The government uses it selectively."

The news comes less than two weeks after reports that the Russian Mass Media, Communications and Cultural Protection Service will require the registration of every Wi-Fi device in the country, including PDAs and smartphones.

Vladimir Karpov, deputy director of the state media agency's communications monitoring division, said that registering each personal device would take about 10 days.

Home network users would be required to provide a complete set of documents for every wireless point, as well as technological certifications for individual parts.

The Federal Security Guard Service and the Federal Security Service would also have to give approval for any networks in Moscow or St Petersburg.

Russian citizens have been able to set up wireless networks since 2004, and internet cafés have become very popular in the country.

But the sheer volume of documentation required would now make this difficult, and the agency said that it will confiscate unlicensed equipment.
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