ERR in Moscow: Will Russia Create Its Own Internet System?
Over the last few weeks world media has repeatedly reported on Kremlin's alleged plan to block Internet access and create an alternative in Russia. President Putin has said he does not support online censorship but the government is nevertheless working on laws that would limit Internet freedom.
ETV's "Välisilm" reported Monday on how the world media is discussing the Russian government's alleged plan to create a new mechanism that would allow the access to the Internet to be turned off across the entire country if such a need arises - such in the case of war or a crisis - and to switch in an alternative network instead.
Anton Nosik, a popular Russian blogger, said it is all a bit of a misunderstanding.
Nosik said that the Russian government is indeed discussing plans for an alternative network in case the West decides to switch off some Internet based services as part of its new wave of sanctions, as they did in Sudan in 1997. He added that the network plan is not so much advocated by the politicians themselves, as it is in the interests of the local technology companies, who are hoping to profit from the project.
"It is easy to tell the Russian authorities, who are not following Google, that yesterday it was Sudan, tomorrow it will be us. This means that a lot of money must be spend on creating a new structure that would duplicate all those services we currently get from abroad, just in case the outside world decides to cut us off. This is what they were talking about," he said.
President Putin said during a Security Council meeting last week that he is in favor of creating an alternative cyber-structures in Russia because the cyber world has become a new, highly political battlefield. At the same time he said that as long as Russia is part of the World Wide Web, he is not in favor of any kind of censorship.
"We do not intend to limit Internet access, submit it to total control, nationalize the Internet, and stop individuals, non-government organisation or businesses expressing their interests and searching for opportunities online," he said.
However, ERR's correspondent in Moscow, Neeme Raud, reports that regardless of the official statements, Internet censorship already exists in Russia. A little test shows that www.kasparov.ru, for example, a Web site of Garry Kasparov, Grandmaster chess player and a political activist, is unavailable in Russia.
"There are indeed thousands of such pages. About 85 percent of these are blocked by authorities by mistake because the blocks were made on the basis of the IP addresses, but the IP addresses of the pages in question were the same as the ones they were trying to block," Nosik said.
"It is essentially the same situation as when one inhabitant of an apartment block is put under house arrest, but to stop him or her from fleeing, the door of that block is locked and so none of the inhabitants of the 17-story building can get out."
He said that Russia has four "black lists" for Internet sites. Eight government agencies have the right to block a site and there are more than 20 laws they can base that decision on. At present these strict measures have had little impact on those Russian bloggers, who use foreign servers to host their sites. However, things are about to change in 2015.
Nosik said that the Russian government is currently working on a bill that would limit or even block the use of foreign servers.
"All the hosting platforms will be told to move their user info to Russia, so that the Russian authorities would have direct access to it," he said.