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Six Steps Russia Is Taking Toward Restricting Its Internet

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The Russian State Duma on March 7 passed twin bills to stop the spread of “fake news” as well as information that “disrespects” Russia’s government, its symbols, and society.

Critics say the legislation, which awaits a presidential signature to become law, is part of a broader Kremlin effort to silence free speech on the Internet. And it comes amid signs that a wealth of misleading information spread online in the West leads back to Russia.

Here are some other steps that Russia has taken — or plans to — in its effort to rein in the web:


Sovereign Internet
The State Duma is also mulling a bill that would require Russian web traffic and data to be rerouted through points controlled by the state, and for the creation of a domestic Domain Name System.

Backers of the so-called “sovereign Internet” bill say it will make what they call the Russian segment of the Internet — known as the Runet — more independent. They argue it is needed to guard Russia against potential cyberattacks.

Russian Duma Passes Bills Banning ‘Fake News’ And ‘Insults’

That legislation — passed on its first reading on February 12 — would require the installation of specialized equipment that would make it easier to block websites banned by the government with greater efficiency.

Critics say the bill would do great damage to Internet freedom in Russia.

“This is very serious,” the news agency AFP quoted Russian security analyst Andrei Soldatov, the co-author of a book on the history of Internet surveillance in Russia, as saying of the bill.

“This is a path toward isolating Russia as a whole…from the Internet,” he said.

Banning Telegram

In April 2018, Russia blocked Telegram after the popular messaging app refused to comply with a Russian court order to give security services access to users’ encrypted messages.

Amnesty International said that blocking Telegram — used by senior government officials and Kremlin foes alike — would be “the latest in a series of attacks on online freedom of expression” in Russia.

Many Russians took to the streets to protest Kremlin efforts to silence the messaging app. Embed share

Amnesty International called the development a “major blow to Internet freedom” in Russia.

“To understand how the ban will work, it is enough to look at China, where Apple has just made a deplorable decision to remove most major VPN apps from the local version of its App Store,” said Denis Krivosheev, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

Following The Chinese Model

According to CNN, Russia is seeking to follow the Chinese model on Internet control. And Beijing, according to a recent report by Freedom House, is more than willing to share its know-how.

Beijing has organized “trainings and seminars on new media or information management” with foreign officials, according to Freedom House.

“Beijing is cultivating media elites and government ministers around the world to create a network of countries that will follow its lead on Internet policy,” Freedom House said in its Freedom On The Net 2018 report.

Busted For ‘Likes’

Russians are already looking over their shoulder when posting, or even clicking “like” on a post. Hundreds have been charged with using the Internet to spread or incite “hatred.” As criticism and a backlog of cases mounted, President Vladimir Putin in December 2018 made a rare climb down, softening the punishment for some Internet hate crimes.

Putin had proposed the change two months earlier, following a string of cases in which Russians were charged with publishing material — sometimes satirical or seen by many as harmless — on social networks such as VKontakte and Facebook.

Timing Is Everything

The State Duma introduced its new “fake news” legislation in January as Russia faced fresh charges of spreading misinformation on the Internet.

On January 31, Twitter disclosed that it shut down 418 accounts with alleged Russian links that were suspected of spreading disinformation targeting the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. This came after Facebook removed hundreds of pages, groups, and accounts on both Facebook and Instagram platforms that the U.S. company said were part of two online disinformation operations targeting users across the former Soviet space.

Russians are already looking over their shoulder when posting, or even clicking “like” on a post. Hundreds have been charged with using the Internet to spread or incite “hatred.” As criticism and a backlog of cases mounted, President Vladimir Putin in December 2018 made a rare climb down, softening the punishment for some Internet hate crimes.

Putin had proposed the change two months earlier, following a string of cases in which Russians were charged with publishing material — sometimes satirical or seen by many as harmless — on social networks such as VKontakte and Facebook.

Timing Is Everything

The State Duma introduced its new “fake news” legislation in January as Russia faced fresh charges of spreading misinformation on the Internet.

On January 31, Twitter disclosed that it shut down 418 accounts with alleged Russian links that were suspected of spreading disinformation targeting the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. This came after Facebook removed hundreds of pages, groups, and accounts on both Facebook and Instagram platforms that the U.S. company said were part of two online disinformation operations targeting users across the former Soviet space.

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Putin wants his own private internet

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New Russian laws could soon isolate the country’s Runet from the rest of the internet as it seeks to tighten its grip on the information that flows in and out of the country.

A new bill, backed by President Vladimir Putin and Moscow lawmakers, is currently being pushed through parliament which would create a single command post from which local authorities can manage and even halt information flowing across the internet in Russia.

The country’s so called “Sovereign Internet” bill is being portrayed by Putin as a defensive response to the Trump Administration’s new cyber strategy that would allow the US to launch offensive measures against Russia and any other nation states known for committing nefarious activities online.

Andrei Soldatov, author of “The Red Web: The Kremlin’s Wars on the Internet”, told Bloomberg that he thinks the law isn’t aimed at foreign threats but at quelling civil unrest, saying:

“This law isn’t about foreign threats, or banning Facebook and Google, which Russia can already do legally. It’s about being able to cut off certain types of traffic in certain areas during times of civil unrest.” 

Sovereign internet

The law, currently in draft form, was co-authored by KGB veteran Andrei Lugovoi who’s wanted in the UK for the murder of a renegade agent, is actually a mixture of several bills, some of which have been in development for years.

According to Putin, the ultimate goal is to ensure that the Runet continues to function in the event that the US tries to block Russia from accessing the rest of the internet.

If the bill does pass, the country would install special boxes with tracking software at the thousands of exchange points that link it to the rest of the web. These units would feed data into a central nerve center from which regulators could analyze web traffic and reroute traffic that they do not deem appropriate for the Russian populace.

Russian censorship has grown stronger in recent years and if Putin has his way, the country’s internet will soon resemble that of China’s where access to the outside web is blocked by the Great Firewall.

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The Internet Has Become A ‘Completely Out-Of-Control Monster,’ Warns Successor Of Man Who Created It

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Nearly 30 years ago a group of scientists at a Swiss physics institution came up with a novel idea to share data and work between themselves across the globe. The groundbreaking concept was the brainchild of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, whose vision for a “decentralized information management system” eventually gave birth to the world wide web.

Fast forward three decades and the internet has invaded all corners of the globe and governs all areas of life. It has become a power without equal. Some have suggested it has become a Frankenstein’s monster which needs to be reined in, and fast

One such person is Francois Fluckiger, the man who would become Sir Tim’s successor at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

The Daily Mail reports that Fluckiger believes fake news, privacy threats, and online bullying have all conspired to turn the internet into a “completely out-of-control monster.”

When Sir Tim left CERN’s web team in 1994, Fluckiger picked up the reins. He has since retired, and although he has hailed the web as one of the three major inventions of the 20th century, he believes it has morphed into something almost unrecognizable from its early days.

“One has to ask oneself if we did not, in the end, create a completely out-of-control monster,” said Fluckiger.

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Bali’s silent day: No flights, internet on New Year

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Bali’s airport will close for 24 hours, the internet will be turned off and streets emptied as the island in Indonesia observes its New Year with an annual day of silence.

‘Nyepi’ begins at 6 AM on Thursday, clearing beaches and all public spaces of people except for special patrols to ensure silence is observed. For the second year, phone companies will turn off the mobile internet on the island, home to more than four million people.

Balinese will stay indoors, covering windows and keeping lights off for the day of reflection.

“A day of silence to mark Saka (Balinese calendar) New Year for us is an opportunity to restart life with a pure heart,” said Wayan Gota, a hotel manager in Kuta, one of the island’s tourist hotspots.

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