Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Russia looks to censor Net
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a KGB careerist before he switched careers and entered politics, has favored the growing power of the KGB's successor, the FSB. Small wonder then, that the FSB is worried about the political impact of the Internet, and is floating ideas about how to tame it lest it be used to undermine Putin's administration and create a cyberspace Russian "velvet revolution." At a roundtable discussion devoted to questions of legislative support for activities in the spheres of telecommunications and Internet technologies in the Federation Council held last week in Moscow, FSB Information Security Center representative Dmitrii Frolov proposed Internet curbs -- in the interests of democracy, of course. Frolov said that the FSB is proposing new regulations for Internet on provider companies "in order to prevent the dissemination of extremist ideas on the Internet, to record illegal Web activity, and also to be able to obtain databases and registers of telephone subscribers with an indication of their Internet addresses -- both static and dynamic," a necessary step because the Internet is "gaining an ever larger audience, becoming a serious player on the information field capable of shaping public opinion." Frolov then tipped his hand to the administration's real concerns, commenting that groups with differing political agendas can nonetheless use the Internet to "mobilize political forces against the authorities in their state. An example of this can be provided by the recent events in Yugoslavia, Georgia, and Ukraine."
Radio Free Europe has more:
The response from Russian information technology (IT) experts was predictably skeptical that authorities could -- even if they wanted to -- effectively filter the torrent of information flowing over the fiber optic cables and satellites linking Russia to the Internet. Igor Ashmanov, general director of the Internet company Ashmanov and Partners, told gazeta.ru on 28 April that "the Chinese model is possible only in those countries where all spheres of communication are totally controlled." All of Russia's Internet service providers (ISPs) would have to route their traffic to a single server, he said. And if state officials tried to implement such a program, private ISPs would drag the responsible government agency through the courts, Ashmanov explained in an earlier interview with the website on 26 January.
For forces hoping to prevent any repetition of what happened in Serbia or Ukraine, the important role played by mobile phones and the Internet has already been duly noted. In his remarks to the Federation Council this week, Frolov noted that various groups have used the Internet to mobilize political forces against authorities and cited the examples of Yugoslavia, Georgia, and Ukraine. And in his comments to gazeta.ru, Ashmanov spoke not only about the impossibility of reining in the Russian segment of the Internet but he also speculated that Frolov's declaration is the FSB's reaction to the recent "colored" revolutions. Ashmanov also noted that a new department within the presidential administration, headed by Modest Kolerov, formerly of regnum.ru and polit.ru, was created around the time of these revolutions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 March 2005). So far, Kolerov has kept a low profile, but with Frolov's recent pronouncements, Internet watchers will be on the lookout to see whether Russia will try to follow in China's footsteps.