Russia Intends to Control Internet Traffic

News and Analysis

Russian Ministry of Communications has prepared a draft law implying government control of internet traffic. According to the document, the authorities will be entitled to control internet traffic routes within Russia. Apart from that, the draft proposes a system of DNS and IP monitoring, including establishing a backup system for the latter in case of failures.

The document itself is a collection of amendments to the laws “On Communications” and “On Information, Information Technologies, and Data Protection”. According to a source in one of the involved departments, the draft law was developed following the instructions by Vladimir Putin after a session of Russian Security Council back in 2014. The council considered minimizing risks for Russian segment of the internet in case of its temporary disconnection from outside world.

According to Russian newspaper Vedomosti, the draft law’s intent is to provide comprehension to the Russian authorities. As current state of the Russian segment of the internet is quite chaotic, the government lacks any understanding of what it is and how it works.

The monitoring system will allow one to understand which points of the Russian internet are connected, and which are not. Basing on the information, the authorities may offer operators and providers to build backup channels to improve the network’s connectedness. However, the draft law’s authors state it is not their intent to track the content of the transmitted data with the system. They point out that it is already possible via cooperation with service providers.

In addition, the amendments imply introduction of stricter controls over foreign communication channels and traffic exchange nodes. Operators may be obliged to use only traffic exchange nodes included in a special state register. In this connexiion, so-called ‘grey channels’ will have to go into the light and comply with Russian laws.

Dmitry Peskov, press secretary of the Russian president, said that the draft law has nothing to do with total control over the internet, reports. He pointed out there is a potential national threat in the internet, so Russia has to understand how to stand against it.

“A big country like Russia has to have its own potential to compensate for possible adverse moves aimed at discontinuing whole segments of the networks. Works in this regard are certainly underway, we allotted relevant tasks. Interpreting it as total control over the internet would probably be far-fetched,” Peskov said.

However, this is not the first instance when Russian authorities attempt to control the internet. Back in 2012, the parliament passed the law on protection of children from information harming their health and growth. Also, there were laws requiring filtering of websites in accordance with a blocklist, as well as the law entitling the government entity, Roskomnadzor, to block sites at its own discretion without any court ruling.

The country has a unified register of banned sites and web pages, which currently includes around 22 thousand entries.

Local authorities in Russia are also known for their attempts to control the internet. Thus, January 2015 the city court of Nevyansk included several cryptocurrency-related portals in the black list. However, following an extended campaign, the Sverdlovsk Oblast Court, which is a superior court to the Nevyansk’s one, dismissed the ruling of the latter.

In April 2015, another court in Krasnodar Krai of Russia ruled that access to information empowering users to bypass the blockages, should be restricted. The court considered this kind of information prohibited, even though none of such instruments and bypassing methods are considered illegal under the Russian laws.

Finally, in late 2015 the government blocked the country’s most popular bittorrent tracker, However, after surveying its users, Rutracker.or decided to educate them to bypass the blocks.

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