Russian authorities are close to adopting new legislation that will make encryption backdoors in messenger apps mandatory inside the country, CurrentTime, a Russian news agency, reports.

While the Apple versus FBI encryption battle has ended in the US, a new one is starting in Russia, as authorities have pushed a bill in Russia’s parliament (Duma), with the sole purpose of setting the legal framework in place to coerce tech companies to add encryption backdoors to their services.


Telegram, Viber, WhatsApp, Signal, Allo, Messenger, all targeted

The bill targets messenger apps specifically, such as Telegram, Viber, WhatsApp, Signal, and others, mainly because they all provide encrypted communications to their users.

The upcoming Google Allo app, which will provide end-to-end encryption, will also fall under the bill’s domain if approved into law. So is Facebook Messenger, which is expected to receive end-to-end encryption support as well.

Russian Senator Yelena Mizulina is one of the politicians behind this law. In the past, Mizulina was also at the center of other controversial Russian laws involving the rights of the Russian LGBT community and the procedures for foreigners that wanted to adopt Russian orphans.

In statements to Russian media, Mizulina said the bill needs to be voted into law because criminals and terrorists are using these apps for nefarious activities. She mentions a case where criminals have brainwashed teenagers to kill cops using the group channels of some of these apps.

Russia wants to filter messenger app communications for terrorism keywords

The bill has passed through the Russian Parliament’s Committee on Security and has gained support from FSB (Federal Security Service).

“Maybe we should go back to the idea of pre-filtering. We cannot look silently on this,” Mizulina said, referring to the state’s wish to inspect encrypted communications for specific terms.

According to Russian news agency TASS, the Russian Minister of Communications and Mass Media Nikolai Nikiforov is on board with the idea as well, after complaining that they can’t filter communications because they’re currently encrypted.

The bill also includes fines. If using encrypted messenger apps, Russian citizens will be fined from 3,000 to 5,000 rubles ($45-77); officials from 30,000 to 50,000 rubles ($4,500-7,700); and companies from 800,000 to 1,000,000 rubles ($12,400-15,500).

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