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Want e-mail in Russia? The Kremlin wants your phone number first

MOSCOW — Russians who send e-mails will have to disclose their identifies under draft legislation to tighten control over the Internet that includes a ban on sharing content deemed illegal in messages.

Internet providers will have to require e-mail users to link their accounts to mobile phone numbers under a draft law submitted on Tuesday to Russia’s upper house of Parliament by Senators Andrei Klishas and Lyudmila Bokova.

The Kremlin has been tightening control over the Internet as support for President Vladimir Putin declines amid a groundswell of protests against the authorities on issues ranging from elections to trash collection and declining living standards. The new legislation follows a similar law on messaging services passed in 2017 that required them to identify users and block sharing of content deemed illegal by the authorities.

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“E-mail services providers should only allow messages to be transmitted from identified users,” the senators wrote in an explanatory note. The legislation is needed to counter terrorism and prevent the spread of “knowingly false” bomb threats, they said.

The bill is “inappropriate and excessive,” said Vladimir Gabrielyan, vice president of Russia’s Mail.ru Group. “It involves significant inconveniences for users and discriminates against Russian market players,” since foreign providers will face no such requirements, he said.

Klishas and Bokova sponsored Russia’s “sovereign Internet” law that passed in May and provides for Internet traffic to be routed through domestic servers and exchanges, a measure critics say makes it easier for the authorities to block content. Putin signed laws in March to punish online media and individuals for spreading “fake news” or material that insults Russian officials.

Last year, provisions of the so-called “Yarovaya Law” took effect, requiring communications carriers to store records of users’ phone calls and Internet history for up to six months.

The new proposal “will be difficult to implement,” because e-mail is an open system, said Karen Kazaryan, an analyst at the Russian Association of Electronic Communications, an Internet lobby group. “A user can send a message at random, using any server. If it was possible to regulate e-mails, there would’ve been no spamming and phishing globally.

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Russia faced a wave of false bomb threats earlier this year, often sent by e-mail, that targeted schools, hospitals, offices, and shopping centers, according to the state-run Tass news service.