Russia passes a law to establish a “sovereign Internet.”

Russia has long held a official position and made statements that placed the Internet at the top of their threat list. But the Kremlin did not yet have a centralized system to “lock up” the Internet, unlike China. This has now been done.

The law on this subject came into effect on 1 November 2019, as reported by the BBC. It aims to create a “sovereign Internet” in Russia that is isolated from the rest of the global networks. In concrete terms, the government will be able to “cut off” Internet access at any time if it can justify an emergency. Of course, it will be up to him to decide what does and does not constitute such a situation.

A wind of protest

The bill was passed in March and signed by President Vladimir Putin in May 2019. This announcement had provoked a wind of protest in the country. Thousands of Russians had demonstrated in Moscow for the withdrawal of this text. They then denounced the temptation of the power to dangerously move closer to the Chinese model. Indeed, the arrival in power of Xi Jinping in 2013 marked the beginning of a very firm restriction on Internet access. Access to countless foreign sites has been blocked. In 2018, 26,000 “illegal” websites were closed by the Chinese authorities.

A new domain name registry from 2021

This law will also allow the Kremlin to establish its top-level domains, generally managed by the ICANN, a non-profit organization that acts as a global Internet manager. Russia considers that this body is under the influence of Washington and therefore wishes to detach itself from it by creating its domain name registry (DNS) that Russian Internet operators will be obliged to use from 2021 onwards.

Also, Moscow is seeking to have perfect control over data routing. The new law thus orders the Russian telecommunications police to inform ISPs through which nodes they will be allowed to route their traffic. 

Beyond the fears about digital rights, some actors have expressed concern about the financial resources that will be needed to implement this new law. According to a note from the Russian Council of Economic Experts, quoted by the Russian business daily Kommersant, 20 billion rubles will have to be spent on hiring, construction, and infrastructure renovations.

The danger of a foreign cyber attack

This text provides for the creation of an infrastructure to ensure the functioning of Russian Internet resources if Russian operators are unable to connect to foreign Internet servers. Under the guise of potential cyber-attacks, the Kremlin is asking Internet service providers (ISPs) to put in place “technical means” to operate centralized traffic control.

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