After Winning at Internet, Russia Decides It’s Time to Create Its Own
Mother Russia, enduring friend of human rights and freedom of speech, has just passed a new internet law. The new “sovereign internet” bill, intended to “ensure the safe and sustainable functioning” of the web, means Russians will get a new cyber infrastructure to route internet traffic through servers in the country. Yawn. Think China’s Firewall 2.0.
The privilege (and burden) of building this infrastructure and monitoring the traffic has been given to a
supreme people’s central authority, Roskomnadzor. Also short for Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communications. While we’re on the topic, does anyone know why dictators life-time presidents choose long names for their ministries?
The law comes after a long debate, and fears by Russia that they could be vulnerable to foreign interference or even losing access to the internet. God forbid! Surely a country that has been winning at internet for the past decade at least shouldn’t want to leave our lovely global community? Wouldn’t this jeopardise all those elections Russians like taking part in?
So what does this mean for the average Sergei? Well for one, using Telegram – the encrypted messenger service the Kremlin hates more than a queue at Salisbury’s cathedral – will get harder. Last year the Russians tried to ban it, but the app persevered. Now with this new law, Russian authorities will be able to use “physical means” to block “disloyal VPNs”. Because only Putin can threaten a virtual network with physical means.
The good news is that internet providers will get new equipment free of charge! That is as long as they tell Big Brother exactly where they put it. The bad news is that although service disruptions are very likely, the Russian government has made it clear that “no one is responsible for them”.
Vladimir Putin has not yet signed the bill, as it will be on his table after its third reading in the State Duma. Much more pressing than the question of whether he will sign the bill is, how will his pen pals in the US cope?