Putin says state should not control Internet

MOSCOW, (Reuters) – Modern states should not restrict  Internet freedoms, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said yesterday, apparently trying to dispel concerns the government  might crack down on dissent ahead of elections.

Vladimir Putin

Putin, a longtime Soviet KGB officer who is considering  returning to the presidency in the March 2012 election, made  clear the government had the means to limit internet freedoms  but suggested it would be morally wrong to do so.

“One can always impose control, but the question is …  whether the state has the right to interfere,” Putin told pupils  at a secondary school he visited on the first day of the school  year, according to Russian news agencies.

“In the modern world you cannot limit anything, you must  simply work more effectively in this area,” he said, apparently  hinting that the government should make better use of the  Internet to counter the criticism it faces online.

In a country where much of the media is state-run and street  protests are tightly restricted, the Internet is one of the last  bastions of free speech. Bloggers who criticise the government  or crusade against corruption have won broad followings.

Denial-of-service attacks on Russia’s most popular blogging  site earlier this year kindled fears that authorities want to  control Internet use before a December parliamentary election  and the presidential vote next year.

Concern deepened during the Arab Spring unrest, when  Russia’s domestic security service, which Putin once headed,  said uncontrolled use of communication providers such as Gmail,  Hotmail and Skype could threaten national security.

Putin, replying to a question from an 11th grader about  potential limits on the Internet, suggested restrictions were  not the best way to fight phenomena ranging from child  pornography to “negative political appeals”.

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