MOSCOW — Russia took a step toward government control over the internet on Thursday, as lawmakers approved a bill that freedom of information advocates worry will open the door to sweeping censorship.
The legislation is designed to route web traffic through filters controlled by Roskomnadzor, the state communications watchdog, increasing its power to control information and block messaging or other applications.
It also provides for Russia to create its own system of domain names that would allow the internet to continue operating within the country, even if it were cut off from the global web.
The bill’s goal, according to its authors, is to “ensure a stable, secure and seamless” internet. Advocates hailed it as an important step toward an independent Russian internet, not reliant on traffic routed through other countries.
They say that change is more necessary than ever, given the threat from terrorism and stringent cybersecurity policies adopted by the United States last year.
The vote on Thursday in the lower house of Parliament — the second of three before the bill moves on to the upper house and then to President Vladimir V. Putin — was 320 to 15. The fact that 15 legislators opposed it, in an assembly where the Kremlin controls virtually all votes, was a sign of some unease.
Civil society advocates say that the legislation allows a single government agency to accumulate unchecked powers over the internet. They fear that Russia, where the internet has been a last bastion of free speech after the government shuttered one independent news organization after another, is now tipping toward the more tightly controlled Chinese model.
“This is direct censorship,” said Filipp Kulin, co-founder of Usher II, an online project to monitor the scope of state-sponsored website blocking in Russia.
There is still a legal framework restraining the Russian government that does not exist in China, where the “Chinese firewall” blocks many Western websites and other applications.
Still, Russia is drifting toward that model, he said, in that those legal constraints are being increasingly ignored, and the latest bill would reduce public control over Roskomnadzor.
Leonid Levin, the head of the communications policy committee in the lower house, said in a floor speech that the legislation had nothing to do with the Chinese model.
Critics and even the Russian government itself have complained that the bill was too vague about the type of threats it was meant to address. They also pointed out that centralizing the system makes it much more vulnerable if something goes wrong.
The bill comes a year after the government tried and failed to shut down Telegram, the popular encrypted messaging app once used even by the Kremlin to communicate with the press. The company, founded by a Russian entrepreneur who emigrated, refused to hand over to the government encryption keys, despite a court order.
Roskomnadzor’s attempts to shut down Telegram by blocking entire sections of the web resulted in all sorts of other sites being inaccessible — online stores, service records for a Volvo service center, even the Kremlin museum’s ticket sales. The new law is expected to target specific applications with greater ease.
The bill is expected to receive final approval before the end of the month. Once signed into law by Mr. Putin, the bulk of it will go into effect on Nov. 1.