Putin vs The Internet

Michael Kelley explains why Russia is looking to assert more control over the Internet, which Putin said on Thursday was “a CIA project” and “is still developing as such”:

Today, Russia is leading the charge for breaking up the Internet as it currently functions by running Web traffic through servers in each respective country. “In two years we may get a completely different Internet,” Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov told BI in January. “It might be a collection of Intranets instead of one Internet. Actually I think it’s very possible.”

Earlier this week, Russia’s parliament passed a law requiring foreign Internet services such as Gmail and Skype to keep their servers in Russia and save all information about their users for at least half a year. This would create a Russian ‘Intranet’ that would be separate from the globally-interconnected Web, much like social media website VKontakte now serves as Russia’s Kremlin-allied Facebook outside of Facebook.

Bershidsky focuses on the Kremlin’s attempt to censor blogs:

bill passed by the Russian parliament on Tuesday says that any blogger read by at least 3,000 people a day has to register with the government telecom watchdog and follow the same rules as those imposed by Russian law on mass media. These include privacy safeguards, the obligation to check all facts, silent days before elections and loose but threatening injunctions against “abetting terrorism” and “extremism.” This signals to bloggers that they will be closely watched and that Russia’s tough slander and anti-terrorist laws will be applied when the authorities think it appropriate. Bloggers who fail to register as media face fines of up to $900.

There was no international outcry as in the case of the Turkish Twitter ban. Only Dunja Mijatovic, the media freedom representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to veto the bill, which he is unlikely to do because it fits in well with his recent oppressive policies. Perhaps Russia has already been written off as a rogue state because of its heavy involvement in the Ukraine crisis, and more curbs on its media freedoms are no longer an issue for the international community. For Russian bloggers, however, the bill – which will come into effect from August assuming that Putin signs it – is a sign that the government is coming for them.

Pavel Durov, the founder of VKontakte, Russia’s answer to Facebook, fled the country earlier this week, saying his company had been taken over by Putin cronies:

Durov explained that after seven years of relative social media freedom in Russia, his refusal to share user data with Russian law enforcement has set him at odds with the Kremlin, which has recently been trying to tighten its grip on the internet, according to The Moscow Times. VK’s former CEO says that despite his multiple refusals of Kremlin requests to censor his site in a similar fashion to how it filters print and TV news, the site — which boasts 143 million registered users globally, 88 million of whom are based in Russia — is now effectively under state control.

Keating takes a closer look at the “Internet sovereignty” movement:

Russia is one of a number of countries pushing the idea of “Internet sovereignty”: the notion that governments—rather than multinational corporations based in the United States or U.S.-founded agencies like the ICANN, which is responsible for the Internet’s global domain name system—should have control over their own internal cyberspaces. …

Internet sovereignty might be a little easier to take seriously as a concept if many of the governments that are most enthusiastic about it weren’t so blatantly interested in policing their citizens’ Internet use. Iran, for instance, has been for years been pushing a “national Internet” project aimed at keeping unwelcome outside influences from reaching its citizens.