MOSCOW—Russian President Vladimir Putin signed bills into law on Thursday that would help the government crack down on dissent online and demand unprecedented data storage efforts from the country’s telecom companies.
Proponents of the laws, which were pushed through parliament last week, said they were necessary to combat terrorism in Russia. But critics say the laws are designed to cow Kremlin opponents into silence ahead of parliamentary elections this fall.
Russia’s largest mobile phone operators and internet providers have also railed against the bill, which they say would drive costs through the roof and put many players out of business.
“The idea was to have at hand a big stick that was frightening and might help big companies be more cooperative,” said Andrei Soldatov, author of The Red Web, a book about Russia’s efforts to control the internet.