May 2 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a controversial new law that allows the country to launch its own Internet -- separate from the World Wide Web -- and possibly disconnect globally.
Putin signed the law Wednesday, which allows agencies to begin developing a "sovereign Internet" that's accessible only from inside Russia. The new law allows them to create an alternative domain name system Russia could use if it unplugs from the international network.
A "sovereign Internet" would allow Moscow to determine types of threats and measures to eliminate them, including blocking and banning information.
Putin signed the measure even though a state-run poll showed recently 52 percent of Russians oppose the law. Some even protested publicly in March, reflecting fears among citizens and experts that the change would isolate Russia even further.
Officials first pushed for state control over the Internet in December, citing U.S. national cybersecurity strategy as a reason.
Last month, Human Rights Watch slammed Russia's move to block the messaging app Telegram, calling it a "widespread assault on privacy and freedom of expression online."
"Blocking millions of IP addresses in an effort to block Telegram is part of the Russian government's attack on Internet freedom," Yulia Gorbunova, a Russia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said. "This limits Internet users' access to information and leaves them vulnerable to surveillance by government and private actors."