Government Moves to Impose Monitoring on Russians’ Online Activities: Report

The Russian government is considering setting up a system to monitor what Russian internet users watch online, business newspaper Vedomosti reported Thursday, citing unnamed Kremlin sources.

The Kremlin seeks to understand the types of content Russians watch online and which websites impact public opinion the most, the newspaper’s sources said. Viewership data is also needed to collect taxes from digital ads and calculate the audience size of Russian-made television shows, the newspaper reported.

The Russian market research firm Mediascope will most likely be involved in gathering data on the public’s online habits, government and media industry sources were cited as saying. Mediascope CEO Ruslan Tagiyev declined to comment.

Both advertisers and content creators need a universal monitoring tool to evaluate Russia’s internet audience, deputy communications minister Alexei Volin said.

“It’s a requirement for the industry’s development,” he added.

Alexander Zharov, the head of the state media watchdog Roskomnadzor, agreed that internet audience data is currently “unverifiable and not really audited.”

Presidential administration officials have reportedly held talks on the potential monitoring system with major television and online media companies. Three unnamed media companies have confirmed they took part in the talks.

The discussions are still in their early stages, Vedomosti’s sources said.

Russia has in recent years attempted to curb internet freedoms by attempting to block access to certain websites and messaging services such as Telegram. The country has required search engines to delete some search results, messaging services to share encryption keys with security services and social networks to store Russian users’ personal data on servers within the country.