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Russian President Vladimir Putin is thinking about ways to cut the country off from the Internet. He says that if and when they face an emergency situation, the Kremlin feels that Internet disconnection is a must. Plans that the president’s security council will be discussing aim to give the government more control over the Internet.
The Kremlin’s Plan to Control Russian Internet
Russian newspaper Vedomosti reported that the government is looking into options for nationwide internet disconnection. Government officials announced that drastic measures are being examined. The Kremlin wants to be able to initiate Internet disconnection from the global Internet in case a full-blown anti-government protest should occur, or if they face any serious military encounter.
Russia wants to have more power over the Internet by controlling access. They feel that this would reinforce their jurisdiction in cyberspace. Moscow has so far left the Internet relatively open, although there are many government trolls who try to control discussions and sway public opinion in favor of President Putin. Lately, the Kremlin has formed a more negative opinion of media outlets in the west. They believe that the news of recent happenings in Ukraine has been skewed. Some say that this move towards Internet disconnection is a direct result of this. Added sanctions on Russia from the west since the Cold War is another reason. Moscow wants to protect itself from new sanctions that could affect the Internet.
The move to take control over Russian Internet could also be part of Putin’s long standing plan to break its reliance on US technology, including much of its digital infrastructure. Moscow has long believed that it is exposed to spying by the US and allied governments. Internet disconnection from the global Internet would secure government communications particularly in times of political, military or social upheaval. The government has considered developing its own Internet, as other governments have done in the wake of the NSA spying exposé. Extending the plan to include everyday Russian Internet users, however, is crazy, according to Russia spy agency expert Andrei Soldatov.
Russian Internet Disconnection Would Be Easy
Russia has very few exchange points for a large country. This would make it relatively easy for the government to achieve Internet disconnection if they decided to do it. Furthermore, exchange points such as Rostelecom are all regulated by Russian long distance companies. These operators are all closely monitored by the government.
The Internet represents the last front where citizens can freely access news and other content. The media in Russia is already heavily regulated by the government. The president was scheduled to meet in a closed session with his security council yesterday to discuss the Internet disconnection plan. One topic on the agenda is taking control over the .ru, .рф and .su domains. If the plan pushes through, Russian residents may face Internet disconnection of all Russian websites any time the Kremlin issues a state of emergency.
The idea of taking over the Russia, Russian Federation and Soviet Union domains came from the president’s security council. This is disquieting because they now belong to a non-government organization. Taking over would mean transferring ownership and hosting to the government when many sites on these domains are as of now hosted in other countries. Under government jurisdiction, all websites on these domains could quickly become strictly regulated by the government.