Russia Quietly Increasing Internet Censorship
Vladimir Putin has accelerated his plan to separate Russia from the global Internet since 2019. The sovereign Internet law of the country, which was enacted in November, allows officials to block access for millions of Russians to certain websites. This law was used to block Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It followed Russia’s invasion in February of Ukraine.
Russian officials have continued to devise new policies and measures to control the internet, increasing the state’s surveillance and censorship powers. Each little move pushes Russia towards a more isolated and authoritarian web. This restricts the rights of people within its borders and damages the fundamental ideas of an open internet.
“Russia’s invasion in Ukraine has provided an additional pretext to ramp up draconian censorship, but also pass more laws that outlaw more items and place more people under criminal prosecution,” Tanya Lokot, a professor of digital media and society at Dublin City University who studies digital rights and Internet freedom, said.In the past two months, Russian officials made about half a dozen policy and legal announcements to increase their control over the internet and the country’s technology ecosystem. So far, Russian legislators have suggested the creation of a Russian App Store. This would be installed on new smartphones and a law that could limit data being moved outside of the country. Russia’s parliament voted to allow biometric data to be collected from banks and added to one large database. Apple was penalized for failing to comply with the law and Google has been fined $374 million.
In June, Russia tightened its laws on “foreign agents,” cracked down further on the use of VPNs, announced a database collecting IMEI codes of mobile phones, told officials not to use foreign video conference software such as Zoom and instant messaging apps, and launched a draft law that would stop foreign software being used in the country’s critical infrastructure by 2025.