* Law forces sites to store personal data in Russia
* Critics say is aimed to outlaw Facebook, Twitter
* Latest in string of curbs on Internet
By Alexei Anishchuk
MOSCOW, July 4 Russia's parliament passed a law
on Friday to force Internet sites that store the personal data
of Russian citizens to do so inside the country, a move the
Kremlin says is for data protection but which critics see an
attack on social networks.
The law will mean that from 2016, all Internet companies
will have to move Russian data onto servers based in Russia or
face being blocked from the web. That would likely affect
U.S.-based social networks such as Facebook, analysts
Coming after new rules requiring blogs attracting more than
3,000 daily visits to register with a communications watchdog
and a regulation allowing websites to be shut without a court
order, critics say the law is part of a wave of censorship.
"The aim of this law is to create ... (another) quasi-legal
pretext to close Facebook, Twitter, YouTube
and all other services," Internet expert and blogger Anton
Nossik told Reuters.
"The ultimate goal is to shut mouths, enforce censorship in
the country and shape a situation where Internet business would
not be able to exist and function properly."
Putin, an ex-KGB officer who has called the Internet a "CIA
project", denied he was restricting web freedoms, saying his
main concern was protecting children from indecent content.
Speaking to a business forum in May, he denied there were
plans to ban Facebook and Twitter.
The Kremlin adopted a law earlier this year giving
authorities power to block websites deemed either extremist or a
threat to public order without a court ruling.
Among the websites blocked were those of Kremlin critics
Alexei Navalny and Garry Kasparov because they "contained calls
for illegal activity".
Last month a senior Twitter executive met the head of
Russia's communications watchdog Roskomnadzor, after it was
asked to block a dozen unspecified accounts. A Twitter spokesman
later said it had not agreed to block any accounts in Russia.
Putin has adopted an increasingly conservative stance since
he faced massive protests against his return to the Kremlin in
2012. Protesters used social networks to share critical views of
the authorities and coordinate their moves.
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)