A so called “sovereign internet” law – a controversial law that aims to create an independent internet exclusively for the country, was passed in Russia recently.
However critics have said that this law is effectively a tool being devised by Moscow to create a sort of digital Iron Curtain for internet networks in the country – which can ultimately lead to controlling of information as is the case in China.
Earlier this year, Russia enacted a law that mandated the creation of a national network which would be able to operate independent of the rest of the globe. The law gives the power to Roskomnadzor, Russia’s telecoms agency, to block external traffic exchange in Russia effectively creating a web that would be exclusive for Russia.
The argument of the government behind the new law is that it would help protect Russia from external cyber attacks on the country by granting the ability to the country to completely cut off the national network of the country in case of suspected intervention into the Russian cyberspace by foreign power.
Internet users should not be affected by the new law, said the official newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta. It however said that the law “will ensure the availability of communication services in Russia in case of threats.”
Proponents of free internet however say that this law will in effect give power to the Russian government to directly censor internet content or even completely block off Russia from outside information through the internet.
While this is doable in theory, the manner of application of the new regulations is not clear.
But some analysts and market experts fear that acts like censoring, rerouting or switching off internet traffic to block access to politically sensitive content could be engaged in by the Russian government. This is because the new law mandates that all internet providers in Russia have to install special hardware provided by Roskomnadzor for the purpose of controlling of internet traffic and for detection of so called ‘spurious’ content.
Analysts claim that this part of the law grants access for the use of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology – one that is form of data processing that examines in great detail the contents of the data being sent. For example, China makes use of DPI for its Great Firewall that helps the government there to filter any content on the internet that it deems inappropriate for the Chinese audience.
Internet rights activities and cyber experts are already clamoring about the threat of independence of the internet because of the new law in Russia and suspect censorship and surveillance of the internet there.
“Now the government can directly censor content or even turn Russia’s internet into a closed system without telling the public what they are doing or why,” said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at the advocacy group Human Rights Watch, in a statement. “This jeopardizes the right of people in Russia to free speech and freedom of information online.”
(Adapted from CNN.com)