Russia’s Internet Autonomy Project Difficult to Implement, Analysts Say

A project for an “autonomous Russian Internet” that is important to the Kremlin will be adopted, but the authorities are unlikely to be technically able to achieve any ‘isolation’ of the Russian network segment, Russian experts told Kommersant business daily.

Earlier this month, Russian lawmakers proposed several draft law initiatives to regulate the country’s internet. Experts and users reacted with enormous concern to the initiative to create an infrastructure in Russia that ensures the stability of Russian Internet resources in case they are disconnected from foreign servers.

According to analysts from the Expert Council under the Russian government, if implemented, the law would create risks of disrupting the work of Russian domains and excessively expand the powers of state censor Roskomnadzor to directly manage the communications industry.

The December amendments were a continuation of a long-standing Russian government policy to regulate the Internet. Various restrictions were gradually introduced in November 2012, when Russia’s telecom watchdog obtained the right to extra-judicial blocking of sites with child pornography, drug propaganda and other harmful content. Subsequently, a similar procedure was introduced for extremist activities and other categories.

“Approximately every six months, a new category of prohibited information appears and a new department is appointed to run it, which can introduce access restrictions,” Artem Kozlyuk, the head of NGO Roskomsvoboda, told Kommersant.

Experts believe that the self-reliant Russian Internet project will be adopted, but its implementation will be difficult.

“The authorities epic failure with Telegram (the service works in Russia, despite efforts to block it) in a certain sense instills optimism in me that isolation of the Russian segment on the Internet will be implemented at the same technological level,” said Damir Gainutdinov, a lawyer at human rights group Agora.