Cyber Isolation

Esther Burcea, Reporter

On Wednesday, May 1, 2019, Vladimir Putin signed into law the Internet Sovereignty bill creating an independent internet network for public use in Russia. This bill enabled the creation of a nation-wide isolated network that operates independently of any international network thus making it more difficult for hackers and cybercriminals to access and attack network clients.

   The Internet Sovereignty bill was signed as a way to protect Russia from foreign potential attacks and network restrictions. This bill at first glance may appear as an honest, well-intended system of regulations by the Russian government in order to protect the country’s internet communications infrastructure but it also implies stricter government control over Russian citizens. Russia has already enforced the law in March, 2019 that allows the imprisonment of any citizen who “disrespects” the government online. Based on these facts alone, the bill disguises itself as a clever method of increasing censorship.  

     The bill has enabled a plan for absolute national internet isolation has already been set in motion. According to a summary by RIA-Novosti “the law calls for the creation of a monitoring and a management center supervised by Roskomnadzor, Russia’s telecoms agency. The state agency will be charged with ensuring the availability of communication services in Russia in extraordinary situations.” During such scenarios, the bill grants Russian law enforcement the ability to cut off traffic exchange with foreign networks, creating a purely Russian web. There is no doubt that this bill will be able to secure the Russian internet from foreign threats and hackers, however, many activists fear that an independent Russian internet would involve the creation of a national firewall, leading to the creation of a large scale isolated network of communications larger than that of China.

   Regardless of whether Russia uses this bill on its citizens for the purposes of cyber seclusion, there is still looming panic because this sovereignty project grants Vladimir a frightening amount of control over his country. If this bill is either hijacked or wrongfully manipulated it could plunge Russia into a state of panic.

   

   It is a generally accepted ideology that in developed societies that freedom of expression is important to maintaining a functioning, well-informed society and that all must accept that right with its implied risks. Governments may choose to protect society from unnecessary violent forms of expressions only when societies agree that it is a beneficial compromise. In the case of Russia, its citizens have not all consented with the Russian government to heavily censor and monitor internet activity as opposed to the Russian government arbitrarily determining what internet activity is illegal. This leads to the main fear that comes attached to this bill; the possible loss of freedoms of the press and speech. We know that China has already implemented an extensive amount of legal and administrative regulations that suppress and polices collective expression which is a goal-oriented toward maintaining a cookie-cutter social structure free of any form of free expression that may have a positive influence for the fear that it may upset government conditioned norms. The only hopeful action that could currently prevent Russia from further silencing its citizens is a strong populist opposition that would forcefully influence the governing body to re-examine its policies.