Russia passes bill allowing external internet cut-off
The Russian parliament has passed a bill that would enable a shutdown of the country’s external internet connection.
Formally, the law has been presented as a way to protect the Russian segment of the internet should it be disconnected from the worldwide network.
In reality, the law will allow officials to isolate users in Russia from the internet without a court decision.
So far, in the entire history of the internet, there has not been a single case of any country being entirely disconnected from the outside world.
Currently, the most stringent network regulations are found in countries such as North Korea, Iran, China, and Turkmenistan.
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Who proposed the bill?
Attacks on the internet occur regularly in Russia, but have recently intensified. Two weeks ago, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, joined critics of the internet.
The bill was proposed by rather curious legislators: member of the lower house Andrei Lugovoi, and a member of the upper house of parliament, Andrei Klishas.
Lugovoy is wanted internationally by the UK authorities who have accused him of organizing an assassination attempt in London. He stands accused of using a radioactive substance on Russian opposition activist Alexander Litvinenko.
Klishas recently became the subject of an investigation conducted by the Anti-Corruption Foundation (organization of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny) which accuses Klishas of being involved in fraud and tax evasion.
A general trend
This law is not the first to limit the rights of internet users in Russia. There are others that have already been implemented:
• The law on the Right of Silence, which allows officials to remove compromising information from the net;
• A law obliging foreign companies to store all user data in Russia;
• A law allowing the blocking of information resources without a court decision;
• A law prohibiting Russian military personnel from using smartphones and maintaining accounts on social media.
Last year, the Russian authorities attempted to disable the Telegram messenger application which refused to cooperate with the country’s special services. However, this attempt was not crowned with success – Telegram continues to work.
Russian internet users were not impressed by the new proposal:
“Currently, the blocking of prohibited resources is easily circumvented by using a proxy and vpn, as well as using cloud technology. But when the network is completely isolated from the outside world, no technology will help something forbidden to enter from outside – for example, Facebook, which will be one of the first victims.”
“The Middle Ages are returning.”
“This is a law about turning off the network not from the outside, but from the inside.”
But the prevailing reaction on social networks is laughter:
“An Autonomous Russian Internet is only the first step. Next is a sovereign multiplication table and a unique Russian periodic table.”
“These are all half measures. We need to ban electricity altogether.”
“There is nothing to be afraid of. They will steal the budget set out for turning off the internet, and that’ll be the end of that.”