Russia’s State Duma (lower house of parliament) has passed a law requiring internet companies to store Russian citizens’ personal data inside the country.
The Kremlin says the move is for data protection but critics fear it is aimed at muzzling social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
The Russian government is thought to be seeking greater access to user data.
Social networks were widely used by protesters opposing President Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin in 2012.
Analysts say there are fears that Russia may be seeking to create a closed and censored version of the internet within its borders.
The new bill, passed by the lower house of parliament, must still be approved by the upper chamber (Federation Council) and President Vladimir Putin before it becomes law.
If passed, the new rules will not take effect until September 2016 but will give the government grounds to block sites that do not comply.
“The aim of this law is to create… (another) quasi-legal pretext to close Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all other services,” internet expert and blogger Anton Nossik told Reuters news agency.
“The ultimate goal is to shut mouths, enforce censorship in the country and shape a situation where internet business would not be able to exist and function properly.”
Introducing the bill to parliament, lawmaker Vadim Dengin said “most Russians don’t want their data to leave Russia for the United States, where it can be hacked and given to criminals”.