On May Day this year – May 1, 2019 – Russian President Vladimir Putin put his signature on a bill that advances the build-out of a “sustainable, secure, and fully functioning” internet service localized to the country’s users and independent of the internet as we westerners envision it.
The law is a formality that accompanies a technological direction toward online isolation promised by Putin months ago. As this writer covered in February for TheDailyConspiracy.com, “in April 2019, the Russian government plans to test its cybersecurity system’s ability to ward off foreign attacks by disconnecting briefly all user internet access within the country.”
That day has come. The new law in Russia gives the green light to continue building out the new national cybernetwork that will provide hacker-free internet service within the confines of Russia – no matter what goes on elsewhere on other nations’ networks.
The new Russian intranet has been dubbed Runet, meaning the Russian segment of the internet. Officials say it will “operate independently from the rest of the world in case of global malfunctions or deliberate internet disconnection.”
Russian telecom firms will also have to install the “technical means” to redirect all Russian internet traffic to exchange points approved or managed by Roskomnazor.
Putin claims his government is responding to threats made by the United States government which has accused Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea of using cyberattacks to “undermine” the U.S. economy and democracy, promising harsh consequences for any entity caught waging cyberwar against the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
Russia is taking defensive action (proactively) to ensure online access no matter what other world powers decide to do:
“The autonomous system would ensure that Russia doesn’t face a total internet shutdown if relations with the West completely collapse and the US goes as far as cutting off Russian IP addresses from the World Wide Web.”
Russia is also getting tough on international scofflaws who flaunt Putin’s vision of an exclusive and independent national internet. Since 2017, Roskomnadzor has been enforcing their no-links restrictions with increasing vigor and less tolerance for transgressors, even if they are multi-billion-dollar global consortiums.
In December 2018, Russia fined U.S.-based internet app and platform provider Google for failing to follow a new Russian law mandating the removal of censored entries from Google’s search engine results. The penalty was a laughable $7,530 which the Alphabet company paid without dispute.
Roskomnadzor is the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media. This organization is that country’s federal executive organization in charge of censoring electronic media, mass communications, information technology, and telecommunications.
The list of links to sites banned in Russia constitutes a state register maintained by Roskomnadzor:
“This register includes sites containing calls for extremism, suicide propaganda and pornography advertising drugs, gambling without a license, as well as pirated websites, access to which is restricted in Russia forever.”
Also banned in Russia cyberspace are links to articles about child porn, drug use, and suicide.
In March 2019, the Russian parliament passed a suite of new internet laws that criminalizes spreading fake news or being disrespectful of government officials online. Punishment with fines and jail time:
“Private individuals who post ‘fake news’ can be hit will small fines of between $45 and $75, and legal entities face much higher penalties of up to $15,000, according to draft legislation.”
Internet service providers must now play Editor and State Enforcer, ferreting out and blocking access to any online content “which offends human dignity and public morality.”
The Russian laws define fake news as any information that “threatens someone’s life and (or) their health or property, or threatens mass public disorder or danger, or threatens to interfere or disrupt vital infrastructure, transport or social services, credit organizations, or energy, industrial, or communications facilities.”
Russia’s new move toward a private, nationalized internet system has been compared to China’s “Red Firewall” which effectively tracks and censors all online traffic routed inside or out of the Asian Communist country. Global analysts reported in 2017 that “China is by far the most effective censor of the internet, and far from retreating, is exporting its model around the world.”
A new report from Freedom House, a non-governmental organization funded by the United States, found that, during 2018, “internet freedom declined for the eighth consecutive year” in China.
The same study identified a “cohort of countries” moving toward “digital authoritarianism” by “embracing the Chinese model of extensive censorship and automated surveillance systems.”
Russia’s planned 2019 test disconnection is intended to provide Russian ISPs with data about how their networks react under the new restrictive rules. By 2020, Russian authorities plan to keep 95 percent of all internet traffic localized.
The enterprising Russians have also replicated the international Domain Name System (DNS) with their own version which will work with Runet during the upcoming national online disconnection test.
The Russian government will pay for all ISP costs to change their infrastructures and install new computer servers to reroute traffic to Roskomnazor’s approved exchange point.
The all-Russian internet test was scheduled for April Fool’s Day (April 1), 2019, but didn’t happen. The test date has been moved back indefinitely.
Russia’s Information Security Working Group stated its plans to study the feasibility of guaranteeing that all the online content Russians want to access resides inside the national network and propose legislative changes to the plan.
The Runet project is estimated to cost Russia 27 billion rubles (approximately US$415 million), with 2 million rubles (about US$31,000) assigned to the test disconnection.
What price tyranny?