April 13, 2021

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Putin’s Plan For Controlling the Internet In Russia

Putin’s Plan For Controlling the Internet In Russia

Time magazine reports:

On March 10, photos and videos on Twitter were loading more slowly than usual for users in Russia. It was not a network fault or server error but a deliberate move by Russia’s state internet regulator Roskomnadzor to limit traffic to the social media site, in what experts say was the first public use of controversial new technology that the Russian authorities introduced after 2019… The action came after Russian authorities had accused Twitter and other social networks in January of failing to delete posts urging children to take part in anti-government protests… In response to the slowdown, Twitter said it did not support any “unlawful behaviour” and was “deeply concerned” by the regulator’s attempts to block online public conversation.

But on March 16 Roskomnadzor gave a fresh warning that if Twitter refused to comply with its removal requests within a month, the regulator will consider blocking access to the social network in Russia outright… Twitter has only 700,000 monthly active users in Russia, a fraction of the 68.7 million in the U.S. Despite its use by opposition politicians and journalists the Kremlin doesn’t consider it “the most dangerous” platform, says Andrei Soldatov, a Russian cyber expert. Experts say that the authorities used the Twitter slowdown to test technology that could be used to disrupt other, more popular social networks like Facebook, which has an estimated 23 million active monthly users in Russia…

As the government has ramped up its efforts to control what citizens can access online it also has several projects in the pipeline that experts say is part of a strategy to push foreign tech companies out of the Russian market completely. From April 1, Roskomnadzor requires tech companies selling smartphones in Russia to prompt users to download government-approved apps, including search engines, maps and payment systems… In November 2019, the Kremlin made its most controversial move yet toward controlling the country’s Internet infrastructure with the so-called “sovereign Internet” law. A series of amendments to existing laws theoretically enabled the Russian authorities to isolate “RuNet” — the unofficial name for websites hosted in Russia and sites on Russian domain names — from the global web in vaguely defined times of crisis, giving the Russian authorities control over flows of data coming in and out of the country… The “sovereign Internet” law required Internet Service Providers to install Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) equipment, which has been used by some countries, like China, for censorship. DPI equipment enables Russia to circumvent providers, automatically block content the government has banned and reroute internet traffic.

Russia’s major ISPs have now installed DPI equipment, according to Alena Epifanova, a researcher at the German Council on Foreign Relations. But no one knows if or when Russia will be able to cut off its Internet from the global web.

The article also notes Russia passed a law in December which gives Roskomnadzor “the power to restrict or fully block websites that, according to officials, discriminate against Russian state media.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.