Putin signs law requiring Russian apps on smartphones, TVs and PCs

Russia to upgrade homegrown encyclopedia after Putin pans Wikipedia

The new law, which is expected to come into force on July 1, 2020, is ostensibly an "affirmative action" move meant to give Russian software developers a leg up in competing with foreign companies such as Apple, Samsung, and Huawei, as well to make it easier for Russian consumers to start using their new devices right away without having to download Russian apps.

Under the new law, individuals getting funds from overseas can be marked as foreign agents.

Moscow claims the law is a response to a decision by the USA government to require Russia's state-funded channel RT, to register its U.S. operating unit under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Expanding its ambit raises concern that it could be used to target critical voices. Some believe that the move will allow Russian software companies to better compete, but others think it may just give Russian authorities another way to keep tabs on the country's people.

Nine RFE/RL reporting platforms have been designated a "foreign agent" as a result of a law from 2017 that brings media organizations under the purview of the original law that requires NGOs receiving foreign funding to register as "foreign agents" with Russia's Justice Ministry.

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According to a report in the Meduza news website, companies will face a fine of 200,000 rubles ($3,100) for not abiding by the law.

Foreign agents are those who are involved in politics and receive money from overseas.

Russian opposition politician Alexi Navalny's organisation has been branded a foreign agent, as has US-financed media outlet Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe and Voice of America.

"'Foreign agent' is a persistent phrase with a sharply negative character", the letter reads.

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