02/19/2019, 11.56
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Moscow, a 'sovereign' internet, protected from 'enemies'

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Approval of new bill that could curb the free circulation of world news. Reports of US cyber-attacks. Putin allies distance themselves in favor of "freedom of navigation". The real purpose is to monopolize the market and control possible street mobilizations.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - On 12 February the Moscow State Duma approved a bill to isolate the Russian internet, the so-called Runet and safeguard it from foreign attacks. The law has received the nickname of "Russian sovereign Internet law", but its process seems rather complicated: the government experts and the Court of Auditors have critiqued the bill, and even in parliament the discussion has been rather heated. Although no one doubts that the law will be approved, albeit in an unspecified form.

The impression is that the government authorities, and President Putin himself, are not very convinced of such a radical move, both because of the inevitable negative reactions in society (we are in a delicate phase of anti-government protests), and because of the difficulty to identify the "enemy" to be eliminated in the sea of ​​computer navigation. True sovereignism, in effect, works only with the clear identification of a threat to be neutralized.

In the Duma discussions, the most active protesters of the law were the liberal-nationalists of Vladimir Žirinovskij, a politician with a heightened sense of which way the wind of protest blows.  Not by chance he was rewarded in some recent regional elections. To date a Putin loyalist and former Yeltsyn antagonist, he has realized that being on the side of the tsar is no longer "fashionable" today. No one among the official parties has the courage to make direct opposition in the manner of the blogger Aleksej Naval'nyj, who leads popular protests, but between the nationalists and the communists, the anti-government trends are beginning to move.

New opponents include several regional governors, who in 2021 will be called to test the mandate received the first time "by presidential appointment". Certainly, internet restrictions do not carry votes, while the campaign in favor of freedom of speech is relatively easy. Especially in a period when the economic crisis will become increasingly acute as a result of tightened sanctions recently approved by the US Senate.

The attempt to curb Internet access, moreover, would cost several billion rubles. Today in Russia there is a ruthless struggle between the state and private operators in the communications sector. The bill is backed by strong economic interests, masked by sovereign and patriotic ideological slogans, in response to American threats. In parliament, the law was presented as a response to Trump's new conception of cyber security, and for the first time US cyberattacks have been reported, when up until now the Russians were the recipients of such allegations.

It would seem that cyber-attacks are proliferating, with the trade of blame between United States and China, whose reciprocal cyber-attacks are dwarfing the exploits of Russian hackers. International communications are not really at risk, except for leaks due to city excavations and shark bites of underwater cables in the ocean; no one is able to exclude an entire nation from internet browsing, as the proponents of Russian isolation fear.

The real concerns seem to be internal: By claiming international aggression, to hide the fear that the street protests can be curbed by curbing internet, as was the case in the so-called "Arab Springs" or the movements of the Ukrainian Majdan, the nightmares of every contemporary totalitarian regime. Some recent "exercises" imposed on the major operators have led to temporary blockages of the service, for example the blocking of YouTube, to limit the circulation of certain information blocks. The control authority, Roskomnadzor, is testing the so-called DPI, the blocking system of websites. Some observers speak of these years as the "new terror of 1937", recalling the most acute phase of the Stalinist repressions.

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See also
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Beijing wants more control over the internet as broadband connections grow
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