- The Washington Times - Friday, May 12, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin has directed his government to devise a plan prioritizing “traditional Russian spiritual and moral values” in cyberspace as the Kremlin considers tightening its grip further on its eroded internet freedoms.

The 29-page executive order signed by Mr. Putin and released by the Kremlin Thursday, “Development Strategies for Russian Information Society from 2017 to 2030,” outlines the president’s goals, objectives and plans to ensure Moscow’s domestic and foreign policies are properly implemented in the digital sphere, according to an English translation.

But while the strategy advocates protecting Russian infrastructure against cyberattacks and encrypting the communications of federal workers against eavesdroppers, among other measures, certain sections have triggered concerns already raised by regional media.

According to The Moscow Times, the directive effectively orders the federal government to find new ways to rein in online media and limit digital anonymity.

Specifically, the directive says Russia must improve its current mechanisms for legally regulating media activities, including content broadcast by online television networks, news aggregators, social networks, instant messenger platforms and the internet as a whole.

New regulation is necessary, according to the Kremlin, “taking into account the needs of citizens and society in obtaining high-quality and reliable information.”

Transparency advocates have condemned Russia for years over its restrictive internet policies — the government routinely stops citizens from organizing anti-government protests on social media, and websites critical of Mr. Putin’s regime and it’s policy are regularly blocked by the government.

The new strategy, as a whole, prioritizes “traditional Russian spiritual and moral values ​​and the observance of [corresponding] behavioral norms in the use of information and communication technologies,” according to a translation provided by Meduza, a Russian news portal.

Elsewhere the new strategy advocates for creating a “system of trust” that would guarantee internet users’ personal data but “eliminate the anonymity and impunity of internet users who violate the law,” The Moscow Times reported.

The policy also calls for encrypting the communications of federal workers as well as replacing the hardware and software currently used by government employees with domestic products produced in Russia.

Mr. Putin’s office offered no further details on the policy, and Deputy Minister of Communications and Mass Media Alekseyu Volinu told reporters he said he did not know who wrote the policy, instead attributing it to a “team of authors.”

Russia’s government has been asked to supply the Kremlin with a preliminary implementation plan by Oct. 1.

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