Russia has handed new laws that may require producers of smartphones, computer systems, and good TVs to pre-install Russian-made software program on their gadgets.
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.
The move has been criticized as a further restriction on freedom of expression and allowing authorities to crack down on dissent.
Critics of the law say it stigmatizes organizations with the designation and would do the same to journalists if they are labeled as foreign agents.
Russian Federation passed the original foreign-agent law in 2012 following the biggest wave of anti-government protests since Vladimir Putin came to power.
But in theory, any Russian who is paid by foreign news organizations, or simply posts on social media while receiving money from overseas, could be forced to register under the new law.
The law was intimated in 2017 as a mirror response to the USA decision to announce Kremlin-backed television channel RT as a foreign agent.
Several rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, had called for the initiative to be dropped as it was being approved by lawmakers. According to a document published on the Russian government website, this new law will come into force with immediate effect.
Foreign agents, defined as involved in politics and receiving money from overseas, must register with the justice ministry, label publications with the tag and submit detailed paperwork or face fines.