Russian authorities often say that their brand of internet control and censorship is not similar to that pioneered by China – but one measure may now be in the works that is highly reminiscent of the way China handles western social networks.
That way is, of course, to ban them. The Internet Protection Society NGO, that fights against censorship and government regulation of the internet, and is critical of Russia’s authorities, suggests that Russia is planning just that.
Mikhail Klimarev claims that signs are pointing in the direction of the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube being completely blocked in Russia by early 2021 – and that the process will unfold gradually, through several progressively more serious and restrictive steps.
But if the idea to ban unwelcome western platforms may have come from China, Moscow seems to have gotten the inspiration for the way it’s currently treating them from the United States and the EU. For one thing, Facebook and others are being accused of interfering in Russia’s recent local elections.
Klimarev noted that the country’s Federation Council (upper house of parliament) will meet regularly to discuss this point – and that it could represent the beginning of a campaign to paint these social media giants as harmful to the country.
The telecommunications and internet regulator Roskomnadzor has already issued what is essentially a serious warning to Facebook and Google, dubbing their activities around the elections this month as a case of “illegal and unacceptable” meddling in what Russia likes to promote as its top value: sovereignty.
Klimarev speculates that the next step might be lawsuits against these US companies, removal of their content delivery infrastructure, with the process finally resulting in a complete ban. According to him, the gradual nature of the tactic will ensure that there aren’t any significant protests by those in Russia opposed to such a move.
Russia is already requiring that data of its citizens be stored in the country rather than on servers abroad and has demanded from tech giants to comply with this rule, or else. But Klimarev believes that this time, Moscow is prepared to go all the way.