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Russia prepares to tighten grip on Internet

May 29, 2014, 17:14 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Anton Novoderezhkin

MOSCOW, May 29. /ITAR-TASS/. The newly-adopted law making popular bloggers equal to mass media and officials’ threats to ban social networking in Russia have added much fuel to the discussion as to where the reasonable limits of state control over the Internet can be drawn. Ever more measures are being drafted, with some proposing a completely autonomous information system.

The Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily reported on Thursday that a draft resolution had been prepared within the media and communications watchdog Roskomnadzor that would authorize officials to block foreign sites unwilling to register on the Russian territory - in fact, any site registered abroad and beyond the control of the Russian authorities. The measure will affect message services, too.

By June 9, the government is to compile thirteen bylaws specifying the work of the law on website and popular bloggers registration obliging all Russian sites to have themselves registered at Roskomnadzor. The only difference is that violation will make Russian resources face administrative punishment, while foreign projects cannot be prosecuted and will just be blocked by Russian Internet providers.

The possibility of active chats can be another reason for blocking a foreign site, includingTwitter, Facebook and Google. They will have to either agree to be included in the register or face blocking with no trial.

Speculations over blocking access to the social network Facebook and microblogging service Twitter in Russia followed a controversial interview of Roskomnadzor’s deputy head Maxim Ksenzov to Izvestia daily. The official described the blocking of Internet resources as “practically inevitable”.

Several hours afterwards the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev advised some officials in charge to "plug in" their brains and refrain from declaring the closure of social networks in interviews. Ksenzov was reprimanded.

Discussions over the possibility of blocking Twitter and Facebook in Russia drew a wide public response, which experts attributed to the law on bloggers recently adopted as part of the anti-terrorist package. It is now compulsory for search engines, blogs, social networks and forums to notify Roskomnadzor of the start of operations and store information during six months. The law also obliged bloggers read by more than 3,000 users a day to register with Roskomnadzor. The limitations existing for mass media now apply to them as well.

Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on May 23, Russian President Vladimir Putin firmly promised that social networks would not be closed down. He recalled that most-read bloggers were also considered as mass media in other countries such as Britain, Germany and the US.

The opponents of "tightening screws" describe the laws as half-baked. They say the method of IP blocking upsets DNS-connectivity in the Russian segment, which can reduce the network’s throughput by 40% in the future. They believe blocking would violate users’ rights and create a dangerous precedent of Runet censorship banned by the Russian Constitution.

Last month, the daily Kommersant quoted sources on the telecommunications market and the authorities as saying a task group in the presidential staff was preparing a number of amendments that would considerably stiffen control over the web, if approved.

One of the measures proposed is to filter content at all levels of the data transmission network. All DNS servers under domain .RU and .РФ should be located exclusively on the territory of Russia. Local and regional networks will be unable to connect to foreign web networks.

However, Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov told the paper he had never heard of such plans before: “I do not think such a primitive approach will prevail.”

Analysts say the authorities differ over Internet policy. A member of the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council Maxim Kavdzharadze, has recently come up with an idea of a national information system for scientists that would help prevent leaks of technologies. The idea found enthusiastic supporters, who believe such an autonomous network is essential for the country’s information security that suffers a lot from cyber-attacks and attempts to split society.


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