Is Russia’s drive towards digital sovereignty just a new Iron Curtain?

The Great Firewall of China à la Russian

Russia’s campaign to control its cyber borders mirrors the ‘great firewall of China’ that restricts the viewing habits of the largest population of Internet users in the world.

Focused on censorship, a range of techniques are employed to prevent citizens from reading or posting anything that the government deems threatening. To do this, access to the Internet is provided only through government licensed service providers, which employs IP blocking, DNS highjacking, and keyword inspection and filtering.

 

China’s ‘Great Firewall’ (GFC) is among the most technically sophisticated internet filtering/censorship systems in the world… Its depth, scope, and capacity is certainly impressive.

 – Jon Penney, Fellow Researcher at Canada Centre for Global Security Studies

 

The government claims that this will improve cybersecurity and prevent foreign meddling in Russian affairs, yet many have deemed it an online “iron curtain” that could be used to suppress dissenting voices. Activists fear that if left unchecked, the hand of the Russian state will reach further into the lives and sovereignty of its citizens.

 

This latest legislation represents another deeply worrying development for freedom of expression in Russia. The bill passed this week, which has an extremely tenuous national security justification, would essentially provide the government with veto power over the online communication and behavior of its citizens. This bill promises little more than an intensified chilling effect on Russian digital communication and expression, and, particularly alarmingly, suggests Russia has its eyes on isolating the internet within its borders, along the lines of the Chinese ‘Great Firewall.’ We condemn this legislation as a thinly-veiled attempt to control and censor online expression in Russia. – Polina Kovaleva, PEN America’s Eurasia Project Director