19 Nov 2012

Russia’s leap in Internet control

The Russian government this month began implementing a new Internet filtering policy, including a blacklist of banned Web sites. The policy is supposedly about protecting Russian minors from material about suicide, drugs or child pornography. But human rights advocates warn that the policy is intended to silence legitimate, independent speech in one of the last venues Russians have for it. Russian investigative journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan reported on Wired.com that the technology required to enforce the blacklist would give the government the infrastructure it needs to monitor Russian Internet activity on a massive scale, “spying on millions of Russians.” This is a leap in Internet control; not merely bullying Internet service providers or shutting down Web sites, the authorities appear to be moving to dig deeply into the data stream.

putin internet

Reporters Without Borders points out that the blacklist is only one of many new policies in a broader rollback of Russians’ freedom. The state is curbing the use of technologies to evade Internet censorship and may soon further restrict “blasphemy.” Libel has become a crime. Leaders of the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, promise more to come. Most disturbing, the legislature has voted to redefine “high treason” in a way that would vastly expand the universe of people whom the state could charge, possibly including journalists, activists and others who may be a danger to Mr. Putin’s regime but are no danger to Russia itself.

The Washington Post