Russian President Warns of Foreign Threat to 'Net Security

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Foreign investors in Internet companies pose a potential threat to national security, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned members of the United Russia political party at a meeting on Wednesday.

"Having international investors come to search engines or appear within large social networks is inevitable. But at the same time, ... we need to keep an eye on it, since it is also an issue of security," Medvedev said, according to a transcript of his remarks on the Kremlin's official Web site.

Despite Medvedev's wariness of international investors, he acknowledged that Russia's Internet industry needs fresh financial support.

"Investments must absolutely be made in this sector," he said.

However, those investments can't be left entirely to the market, he said, pointing to the government's investment in Internet access for schools, an initiative he credited with helping the country double the number of Internet users in Russia to around 50 million, over a third of the country's inhabitants.

Without the efforts of the government, "Everything would still develop, but the rate of development would be somewhat slower," he said.

Political parties too need to invest in the Internet, he said, warning: "If a political force is unable to learn to navigate the Internet, it will die." On the other hand, "those ... able to become online 'trend setters' ... will have a political future," he said.

The Web site of the United Russia party shows that the party has already social networking with the creation of its own network, Den, named for the lair of the party's totem, a bear.

The political uses of the Internet may not all be positive and geared towards improving communication, he warned.

"You need to know how to use it, especially since it may not only be creative, but destructive as well. We are well aware of the potential that the Internet holds, in the sense of supporting a particular constructive initiative, and in the sense of increasing tensions, if necessary."

Medvedev concluded his remarks about the Internet by expressing his support for international initiatives to enforce copyright law online.

"Copyright and the Internet are, at the moment, completely incompatible. The Internet is the enemy of copyright," he said.

Without concerted action by Russian and other governments, "The fundamental principles of copyright protection around the world will be destroyed," he said.

He said Russia's government must work to ensure that national copyright legislation and future international agreements are also enforceable on the Internet.

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