Russia wants to protect itself against cyber attacks with a controversial Internet law that came into force today. Critics believe this law is an extension of state control. But implementation is still lagging behind. Russia wants sovereignty on the Net. In other words, Russia wants to be independent on the World Wide Web and set up its own Internet under complete state control. We are doing this for security reasons, the Moscow government has stated. After all, one must have an autonomous Internet in the event of a possible cyber attack from abroad or other dangers.
That is the reason Kremlin drafted the controversial Internet law, which came into force today. Among other things, it provides the establishment of a new network infrastructure, a national domain system. For example, the government wants to ensure that the Internet in Russia will still function even if it is cut off from the outside world.
The law is intended to oblige all Internet providers operating in Russia to use only these Russian domains – and also to install technology that guarantees the state authorities direct access to their channels. This should make it easier to block data and content. Russia, according to the Kremlin, could thus protect itself ideally against cyber attacks.
Critics, on the other hand, speak of an impending digital isolation of Russia. Even now, many Internet sites that are freely accessible worldwide remain closed to Russian users such as those of Kremlin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The human rights organization Agora sees the law as a “fundamental change” in government policy on controlling the Internet.
Thousands mostly young people had demonstrated against the law in the spring. They fear that the Kremlin could switch off the Internet at will for political reasons. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, who is responsible for Internet issues in the Kremlin, rejected this as nonsense. Nobody intends to disconnect Russia from the World Wide Web. Rather, there is a danger that the West will disconnect Russia from the Internet. Therefore, the country needs an independent digital infrastructure as a reserve structure.
The organization Reporters Without Borders (ROG) criticizes the law. They said it is an attack on the freedom of the press and opinion. Control and filtering of data traffic would now lie with the media supervisory authority and the secret service. That is why the law is a threat to the freedom of the Internet. “It proves that the Russian leadership is willing to bring the entire infrastructure of the network under political control in order to cut off the digital flow of information if necessary,” said ROG managing director Christian Mihr.
The law could also have greater consequences for the economy. Companies are already complaining about enormous costs because they have to store data traffic for months on end. Companies recently asked the Russian state to bear the costs.