Russia enacts controversial internet control law

by bold-lichterman

Vladimir Poutine promulgated Wednesday a controversial law aiming to create in Russia a “sovereign Internet” isolated from the big world servers, denounced by his detractors as a means of reinforcing the control of the authorities on the network.

The text of the law, published Wednesday on the official Russian portal, foresees its entry into force in November 2019. Officially presented in the name of computer security, the law must allow Russian sites to operate without foreign servers.

Towards arbitrary blockages?

Concretely, it plans to create an infrastructure ensuring the functioning of Russian internet resources in the event that Russian operators are unable to connect to internet servers outside the country. Russian Internet access providers will also have to ensure that “technical means” are put in place on their networks allowing “centralized traffic control” to counter possible threats. This control will be carried out in particular by the Russian telecoms and media monitoring agency (Roskomnadzor), often accused of arbitrarily blocking content on the web, and the Russian special services (FSB).

The law is widely criticized because it is seen by many activists as an attempt to control content, or even to gradually isolate the Russian internet in a context of increasing pressure from the authorities. Last week, ten international human rights and freedom of expression organizations, including Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), called on Vladimir Putin not to enact it.

In a joint statement, they denounced a text that could lead to “arbitrary blockages”, “easier state control” and a decline in online anonymity. Several protests against the law were organized, including one that brought together thousands of people in Moscow in March. In recent years, the Russian authorities have tightened the screw on the national internet network, blocking content and sites linked to the opposition, but also services that refused to cooperate with them such as the video platform Dailymotion, the social network LinkedIn or Telegram messaging.