Russia’s State Duma (lower house of parliament) has passed a law requiring Internet companies to store personal data of Russian citizens in the country.
The Kremlin says the move is for data protection, but critics fear it targets inflated social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.
The Russian government is believed to be looking for greater access to user data.
Social networks were widely used by protesters who opposed President Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin in 2012.
Analysts say there are fears that Russia may seek to create a closed and censored version of the Internet within its borders.
The new bill passed by the lower house of parliament still needs to be approved by the upper house (Federation Council) and President Vladimir Putin before it becomes law.
If adopted, the new rules will take effect by September 2016, but will give the government a reason to block non-compliant sites.
“The purpose of this law is to create … (another) quasi-legal pretext for closing down Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all other services,” Internet expert and blogger Anton Nosik told .
“The ultimate goal is to shut up, to impose censorship in the country and to create a situation in which the Internet business could not exist and function properly.”
Introducing the bill in parliament, MP Vadim Dengin said that “most Russians do not want their data to leave Russia for the United States, where they can be hacked and handed over to criminals.”