Increased Internet surveillance in Russia
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Deutsch: Zunehmende Überwachung des Internets in Russland
Several normative acts that have entered into force or are being prepared in Russia bring forth an increased state surveillance over the Internet and a blacklist of blocked websites and internet addresses.
In spite of strong criticism, the Russian Duma (the lower chamber of the Parliament) seems determined to apply state and legislative actions that would limit freedom of speech and the dissemination of information on the Internet.
Thus, the final section of the Russian “Law on the Protection of Children from Information Detrimental to Their Health and Development” entered into force on 1 November 2012. The entire system that has become active, declaratively to prevent on-line child pornography, is a system able to monitor the Internet activities of millions of citizens and ready to ban contents considered undesirable by the Russian government.
Complex internet-monitoring technologies will implement the “Single Register” which will include requests of censorship coming from the Agency for the Supervision of Information Technology, Communications and Mass Media (The Roskomnadzor) which carries out orders of three government agencies: the Interior Ministry, the Federal Antidrug Agency and the Federal Service for the Supervision of Consumer Rights and Public Welfare, and has the power to impose to the ISP to block the indicted contents within 24 hours.
The Roskomnadzor system is apparently using DPI (deep packet inspection) capable to analyse every single packet of the traffic, filtering certain services or contents. “No Western democracy has yet implemented a dragnet black-box DPI surveillance system due to the crushing effect it would have on free speech and privacy” said Eric King, head of research at Privacy International who added: “DPI allows the state to peer into everyone’s internet traffic and read, copy or even modify e-mails and webpages...”
Also, according to the bill proposed to amend the information law filed on 21 September 2012, Internet users who will continue to use anonymizer and filter- bypass tools (such as proxies or VPN) would face heavy fines and even blocking of their Internet access.
Moreover, there is also an attempt of extending the interpretation of the terms such as” “high treason” or “transmission of a state secret”. In a new version of the Penal Code, the terms are meant to cover not only a foreign organization or government, but also an “international organization or its representatives.” The terms are also extended to include all “financial aid, technical assistance, consultative or other assistance” provided for “activities directed against the security of the Russian Federation.”
“Taken as a whole, the latest legislative initiatives in the Duma give all the appearance of a concerted attack on freedom to disseminate information. In each of these bills, imprecise language and vague definitions are far too open to interpretation. We call on members of parliament to revise their proposals in light of the fundamental right to freedom of information, which the Russian constitution – and international conventions ratified by Russia - guarantee to all citizens,” said Reporters Without Borders.
Another proposal is that of establishing criminality liability both for receiving and transmitting “information constituting a state secret” and people who have obtained secret information not only in the course of their work but also “in the course of schooling or in other capacities cited by law,” are also facing the risk of prosecution and conviction.
And to make the picture complete, a new bill proposed by the Duma meant to “protect the sentiments of religious believers” calls for sentences of up to three years in prison and fines that can be increased by 100 per cent for “public offences against or denigration of religious dignitaries...or offences against citizens’ religious convictions and sentiments.” The bill is entirely unnecessary having in view religious affiliation is already protected by the present Penal Code and blasphemy and the desecration of holy sites are already prohibited as forms of “hooliganism” and “incitement of hate.”
The latest actions show a clear and worrying tendency of an increased control and censorship of the online environment by the Russian authorities.
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Russia enacts restrictive new cyber-law (1.11.2012)
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