Thousands of Russians protest against internet restrictions

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Thousands of people took to the streets of Moscow and two other cities on Sunday to rally against tighter internet restrictions.

People shout slogans during a rally to protest against tightening state control over internet in Moscow, Russia March 10, 2019.

Lawmakers last month backed tighter internet controls contained in legislation they say is necessary to prevent foreign meddling in Russia’s affairs. But some Russian media likened it to an online “iron curtain” and critics say it can be used to stifle dissent.

People gathered in a cordoned off Prospekt Sakharova street in Moscow, made speeches on a stage and chanted slogans such as “hands off the internet” and “no to isolation, stop breaking the Russian internet”.

The rally gathered around 15,300 people, according to White Counter, an NGO that counts participants at rallies. Moscow police put the numbers at 6,500.

“If we do nothing it will get worse. The authorities will keep following their own way and the point of no return will be passed”, said 28-year-old protester Dmitry, who declined to give his full name.

Opposition activists said on Twitter that police had detained 15 people at the Moscow rally, confiscating their banners and balloons. Police have not announced any detentions.

The protests in Moscow, the southern city of Voronezh and Khabarovsk in the far east had all been officially authorized. A handful of activists in St. Petersburg took to the streets without the authorities’ consent.

Russia has in recent years attempted to curb internet freedoms by blocking access to certain websites and messaging services such as Telegram.

Adama.L