Russian lawmakers backed a bill that could cut off the country’s internet traffic from servers abroad which critics say is a step towards censorship and possibly an isolated network like in North Korea.
Authors of the initiative say Russia must ensure the security of its networks after U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled America’s new cybersecurity strategy last year.
The new approach follows what U.S. officials said was a wave of cyber attacks by Russia, Iran, North Korea and China, warning it would now respond to any future hostile intrusions both offensively and defensively.
It proposes creating a center to “ensure and control the routing of internet traffic” and requires that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) install “technical measures to withstand threats.”
It also mandates regular “drills” to test whether Russia’s internet can function in an isolated mode.
Taking questions on the floor, the authors were unable to estimate the long-term costs, what threats it would repel or even how it would work but said expert opinions could be incorporated into the bill for its second hearing.
One of the authors dismissed all criticism, citing the scale of the potential threat from Washington.
“This isn’t kindergarten!” shouted Andrei Lugovoi, one of the main suspects in the 2006 murder of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in Britain.
“All of the websites in Syria” have been turned off by the U.S. before, he claimed.
Why This Matters
If passed, the law could make it possible to cut Russia off from the global web, or to initiate an internet blackout in an isolated region if it is rocked by unrest or opposition, said Andrei Soldatov, who co-authored a book on the history of internet surveillance in Russia.
Internet freedom activists say the bill is another censorship bid following previous efforts in Russia to control global social networking platforms and block the Telegram messenger service.
Though the bill claims to address external threats, it would just be another law that “permits limiting rights and freedoms on the internet” in Russia, said Artyom Kozlyuk, who heads Roskomsvoboda, a group that campaigns against internet regulation.
He believes measures outlined in the bill could cost more than 100 billion rubles ($1.5 billion) per year, from both public and private coffers.
While some critics have said Russia is considering creating a China-style firewall, it would be cheaper and easier to adopt the North Korean model of a nationwide intranet, he said.
“North Korea’s experience shows that a totally autonomous internet is possible.”―The Globe Post