New internet regulation comes into force in Russia

New internet regulation comes into force in Russia
Photo: pradiprout

A controversial law potentially allowing isolating Russia's segment of the internet took effect on 1 November. While the new bill's critics and supporters argue over its aim and possible impact, some experts call into question if the country has necessary technologies to provide the implementation of the law.

Russia's new law providing for a so-called 'sovereign internet' came into force on 1 November, reports Forbes adding that questions remain over the purpose and practicality of the plan. According to the Kremlin, the legislation is designed to guarantee that the Russian section of the internet will continue to function in case that the West tries to cut off Russian IP addresses.

The idea of the bill arose after the United States publicly criticised Russia in its National Cyber Strategy published in September 2018. Moscow was accused of carrying out ''reckless cyberattacks that harmed American and international businesses''. Besides, the document warned that the US authorities were ''already taking action to aggressively address these threats''. The Kremlin responded with accusations of constant cyberattacks carried out from US territory against various Russian organisations. As a result, Russian lawmakers approved the new regulations in April.

''We won’t have Chinese-style regulations,'' promised Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Photo:

However, the legislation provoked a lot of criticism. Deputy Europe and Central Asia Director at Human Rights Watch Rachel Denber considers that the Russian government created conditions in which it ''can directly censor content or even turn Russia’s internet into a closed system without telling the public what they are doing or why''. Meanwhile, the country's authorities keep assuring that the new law is not aimed to censor. ''We won’t have Chinese-style regulations,'' said Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev earlier this year. ''No firewall will emerge here.''

Nonetheless, internet service providers are now obliged to install 'deep packet inspection' technology that permits the filtering of data. The technology is useful to keep out viruses or deliberate cyberattacks, but it also gives certain censorship possibilities.

At the same time, Financial Times recently stated that the necessary equipment allowing Russia to run a parallel system would ''not be ready until at least 2021''. In an interview with the media, President Putin's internet advisor Dmitry Peskov compared keeping up with technological change to ''running after a moving train'' and referred to unsuccessful attempts to ban Telegram messaging app in Russia. Thus, even in case of the Kremlin's decision to cut Russia off from the internet, there is no guarantee that isolation can be complete, considers Forbes.

By Anna Litvina