Russian MPs have sent a letter of complaint to the country's internet censors and state 'consumer protection' agencies asserting that FIFA 17 may be in violation of Russia's 2013 gay propaganda law that claims the presence of positive
homosexual material in media will do harm to children's health and development.
In this case, it was games publisher EA giving out a free rainbow calcio kit that led to Communist MPs sending the letter. EA gave away the digital item in support
of the Rainbow Laces campaign meant to combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in the sport.
According to The Guardian , MP Valery Rashkin says the family-friendly-rated game needs to be investigated by the Federal Service for Supervision in
the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications to ensure it is in compliance with the 2013 law.
Russia wants to step up its ability to censor the Internet, and it's turning to China for help. China's Great Firewall is the envy of the Putin regime.
The Russian government recently passed a series of measures known as Yarovaya's laws
that require local telecom companies to store all users' data for six months, and hang on to metadata for three years. And if the authorities ask, companies must provide keys to unlock encrypted communications.
There has been some skepticism as to
whether such laws would -- or even could -- be enforced but earlier this month Russia's internet censor, Roskomnadzor, blocked all public access to LinkedIn.
What's more, it is now clear that Russia has been working with authorities in charge of
censoring the Internet in China to import some aspects of the Great Firewall that have made it so successful. According to the Guardian , the two countries have been in close talks for some time, and the Chinese digital equipment maker Huawei has
been enlisted to help Russian telecom companies build the capacity necessary to comply with Yarovaya's laws.
The professional social network LinkedIn is the first casualty of a Russian law that requires control of foreign websites via their Russian data being stored on a server located in Russia. This ensures that there is a local access point should the
authorities wish to view the internet activity of Russian users.
LinkedIn's days in Russia are now said to be numbered, after a Moscow court gave the Russian internet censor Roskomnadzor permission to block the professional social network. The company
hasn't moved its servers to Russia, and kept storing information about third parties who are not registered users of the network, thus failing to comply with another section of the new law.
The website will be blocked as soon as Roskomnadzor
receives the reasoning (that accompanies) the court decision, after which LinkedIn will be added to a list of websites refusing to comply with personal data laws,
Russian President Vladimir Putin's Internet advisor German Klimenko told
Kommersant that large companies had enough time to migrate their data. This not only concerns Facebook and Twitter, he added, singling out the social media platforms, which haven't complied with the law so far either, this applies to all
Social network LinkedIn is now set to be blocked today in Russia. The country's internet censor, Roskomnadzor, said
LinkedIn would be unavailable in the country within 24 hours.
Some internet providers have already cut access to the site, which has more than six million members in Russia.
In 2014, Russia introduced legislation requiring social networks
to store the personal data of Russian citizens on Russian web servers. It is the first time the law has been enforced against a US-based social network.
The U.S. government said on Friday it was deeply concerned over Russia's decision to block
public access to networking site LinkedIn, saying it created a precedent that could be used to justify blocking other sites operating in Russia.
Maria Olson, spokeswoman at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said Washington urged the Russian authorities
to restore access immediately to LinkedIn, and said the restrictions harmed competition and the Russian people.
The world's largest professional network LinkedIn could soon be blocked in Russia. The company has failed to comply with a snooping law that obliges companies to keep data on Russian users in the country. A spokesman for the Russian internet censor,
We are seeking a court order to block LinkedIn. We twice sent requests in the summer, but they did not provide answers to our questions,.
If the appellate court upholds the
judgment, and it will no longer be appealed, the decision will enter into force within 30 days. We will include the appropriate IP address in the register of violators of the personal data rights, which means blocking.
This is the
first company we are suing in court. In future we will use the same mechanism in relation to other companies.
Faced with the possibility that website blocking may not achieve its goals to reduce file sharing, Russia is now considering a system of fines which would target individual downloaders.
Well over a decade ago when peer-to-peer file-sharing was in
its relative infancy, the RIAA thought it could stop piracy by punishing end users with fines and lawsuits. What followed was a punishing campaign that alienated consumers and ultimately failed to achieve its goals. Only subsequent widespread
access to legitimate content proved to be effective in bringing piracy rates down.
According to sources cited by Russian news publication RNS, the government is considering introducing a system of fines for Internet users who download copyrighted
content without permission. A source explained:
It is expected that evidence of a download of an illegal movie, for example, will be shown by providing an IP address, then the offender will be sent the penalty fine.
It's understood that if pirate site-blocking fails, authorities favor the kind of system that German Internet users are already subjected to, with fines up to 1000 euros per logged offense. T he source said:
If the initiative with blocking sites that publish illegal content does not work, will be discussing the German model
It's been a rough month for Internet freedom in Russia. After it breezed through the Duma, President Putin signed the Yarovaya package into law--a set of radical anti-terrorism provisions drafted by ultra-conservative United Russia
politician Irina Yarovaya, together with a set of instructions on how to implement the new rules. Russia's new surveillance law includes mandatory data retention and government backdoors for encrypted communications.
As if that
wasn't scary enough, under the revisions to the criminal code, Russians can now be prosecuted for failing to report a crime. Citizens now risk a year in jail for simply not telling the police about suspicions they might have about future terrorist
But some of the greatest confusion has come from ISPs and other telecommunication companies. These organizations now face impossible demands from the Russian state. Now they can be ordered to retain every byte of data that
they transmit, including video, telephone calls, text messages, web traffic, and email for six months--a daunting and expensive task that requires the kind of storage capacity that's usually associated with NSA data centers in Utah. Government access to
this data no longer requires a warrant. Carriers must keep all metadata for three years; ISPs one year. Finally, any online service (including social networks, email, or messaging services) that uses encrypted data is now required to permit the Federal
Security Service (FSB) to access and read their services' encrypted communications, including providing any encryption keys.
Opposition to the Yarovaya package has come from many quarters. Technical experts have been united in
opposing the law. Russia's government Internet ombudsman opposed the bill. Putin's own human rights head, Mikhail Fedotov , called upon the Senators of Russia's Federal Council to reject the bill. ISPs have pointed out that compliance would cost them
trillions of rubles .
But now the law is here, and in force. Putin has asked for a list of services that must hand over their keys. ISPs have begun to consider how to store an impossibly large amount of data. Service providers are
required to consider how to either break unbreakable encryption or include backdoors for the Russian authorities.
It is clear that foreign services will not be spared. Last week, the VPN provider, Private Internet Access (PIA),
announced that they believed their Russian servers had been seized by the Russian authorities . PIA says they do not keep logs, so they could not comply with the demand, but they have now discontinued their Russian gateways and will no longer be doing
business in the region.
Russia's ISPs, messaging services, and social media platforms have no such choice: because they cannot reasonably comply with all the demands of the Yarovaya package, they become de facto criminals
whatever their actions. And that, in turn, gives the Russian state the leverage to extract from them any other concession it desires. The impossibility of full compliance is not a bug--it's an essential feature.
Russia is not the
only nation whose lawmakers and politicians are heading in this direction, especially when it comes to requiring backdoors for encrypted communications. Time and time again, technologists and civil liberties groups have warned the United States, France ,
Holland , and a host of other nations that the anti-encryption laws they propose cannot be obeyed without rewriting the laws of mathematics. Politicians have often responded by effectively telling the Internet's experts don't worry, you'll work out a
way. Let us be clear: government backdoors in encrypted communications make us all less safe, no matter which country is holding the keys.
Technologists have sometimes believed that technical impossibility means that the laws
are simply unworkable -- that a law that cannot be obeyed is no worse than no law at all. As Russia shows, regulations that no one can comply with aren't dead-letter laws. Instead, they corrode the rule of law, leaving a rusting wreckage of partial
compliance that can be exploited by powers who will use their enforcement powers for darker and more partial ends than justice.
Russians concerned with the fall of Internet freedom, including the Society for the Protection of the
Internet (IPI), have planned a protest in cities across the country on July 26. EFF will continue to follow the situation closely as it develops.
Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, has passed a bill that would censor the distribution of information by news aggregators with more than one million visitors a day.
Under the news censorship law, news aggregators such as Yandex will have
to check that news is validated by state censors before it can be distributed. Russia's communications censor, Roskomnadzor, will have the power to ban news items. News aggregators will not be liable if 'unreliable information' is textual quotation from
any media outlet.
The bill stipulates that only a Russian national or company may be an owner of news aggregators.
The law is expected to take effect on 1 January, 2017.
Tatarstan, a region in the Russian Federation, has proposed a bill that would bring significant fines for users of online gambling websites. The fines would be extended to parents or guardians that allowed their children to use gambling websites as well.
Proposed fines range between 10,000 and 20,000 roubles ($150 - $300) for users of online casinos. The bill also proposes a heftier fine in the sum of 150,000 roubles (approximately $2,300) for landlords that allow gambling on their properties.
Opponents of the bill however note that it is redundant as the current legislation in Russia completely forbids gambling even via the internet with very few exceptions.
In December 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the Internet Economy Forum, where he suggested Russian federal security service and other state agencies should make information threats their top priority and seek out tools for
monitoring such threats online.
Now, a new center for monitoring information attacks is set to be launched in Innopolis, a new Russian smart city. Natalia Kasperskaya, CEO of InfoWatch and co-founder of the antivirus giant
Kaspersky Lab, is launching her project there.
Kasperskaya told Vedomosti news outlet that the center is part of the response to Putin's suggestion to boost information security. Russia already has agencies that work to
oppose and respond to cyberattacks, she says, but insists that her organization will be the first of its kind, monitoring and preventing information attacks online.
Kasperskays says she's currently looking for investors for the
project, but acknowledges that at the outset it will function mostly with grant money and government funding, and will serve state and public needs.
The new monitoring center is the joint brainchild of Kasperskaya and Igor
Ashmanov, CEO of Ashmanov and partners, a big player in the Russian media and communications market. The partners envision that the center will monitor the web using technology developed by Kribrum--another joint project of Kasperskaya and Ashmanov.
Kribrum's social media analytics and reputation management software can scrape online content and analyze it for sentiment and emotion. Ashmanov says its capabilities are sophisticated enough to be able to predict an information attack online as soon as
it starts, as well as to spot its organizers. Most of the monitoring efforts will likely target the Russian social networks and blogosphere, where political debates and metaphorical "mud flinging" are the most active.
Russian human rights NGO Agora reports that although content filtering and blocking remain the main tools of Russian Internet policy, they are largely regarded as ineffective due to the sheer volume of individual acts of censorship. In an effort to more effectively suppress dissemination of information and free speech, the Russian authorities are attempting to increase the pressure on users--and this is where evidence from monitoring initiatives such as the one proposed by Kasperskaya and Ashmanov could be seen as useful, especially when charging Internet users with legal violations such as posting extremist materials. Agora notes that the increasingly real prison sentences handed down for liking and sharing information published on social media aim to intimidate users and deter them from discussing sensitive social and political issues online.
Tor. VPNs. Website mirroring. The mere mention of these and other online tools for circumventing censorship could soon become propaganda under proposed amendments to Russian law.
Russian state media regulator
Roscomnadzor plans to introduce fines for propaganda of online circumvention tools that allow users to access blocked webpages. The changes also equate mirror versions of blocked websites with their originals.
According to news outlet RBC, which claims to possess a copy of the draft document, Roscomnadzor would punish
propaganda of circumvention tools online with fines of 3,000-5,000 rubles (USD $43-73) for individuals or officials, and fines of 50,000-100,000 rubles (USD $730-1460) for corporate entities. While the proposed fines may not be exorbitant, they
set a dangerous precedent for the future.
Beyond restricting tips on accessing blocked websites, the bill also defines mirror websites and allows copyright holders to ask the court to block both the original website
containing pirated content and all of its mirrors-- derivative websites that have similar names and content, including those translated into other languages.
In February 2016, Russian copyright holders suggested a
similar draft bill mandating a fine of 50,000 rubles (USD $730) for ISPs that published information about circumvention. At the time, the bill's creators claimed Roscomnadzor supported the bill, but the state regulator denied it. Circumvention crackdown
is bad for free speech
On the surface, Roscomnadzor's new bill seems to be aimed at protecting copyright holders and limiting access to pirated content online. But the implications of banning circumvention tools would be far
greater. Russian officials have debated restrictions on VPNs and anonymizers for quite a while, but have so far stopped shy of branding the tools--or information about them--as illegal.
As with other Internet-related legislation
in Russia, experts see the new amendments as deliberately overreaching and broad, making them ripe for abuse and further restrictions on free speech. If the legislative changes were applied literally, many innocuous pages with mere mentions of
circumvention technology could be branded as propaganda.
Irina Levova, director for strategic projects at the Institute of Internet Research, told RBC that if the legislative changes were applied literally, many
innocuous pages with mere mentions of circumvention technology could be branded as propaganda.
Levova believes Roscomnadzor and Russian copyright holders are deliberately pressuring ISPs in order to excessively regulate
access to information online. According to her, Internet providers in Russia are technically capable of blocking up to 85% of websites on the RuNet, and any additional restrictive capability would involve mass IP-address blocking, which means even more
law-abiding websites could suffer. Kremlin's creeping war on anonymity
To date, the biggest row around circumvention tools on the RuNet erupted after the website of RosKomSvoboda , a Russian Internet freedom and human rights
organization, was blocked.
In February 2016, the RosKomSvoboda website was added to the RuNet blacklist registry because of a page on the site that educates users on how to circumvent online censorship and access blocked
materials. RosKomSvoboda said the blocking and the court ruling were absurd, since neither information about anonymizing tools, nor the services themselves, were forbidden by Russian law.
Vadim Ampelonsky, Roskomnadzor's
spokesman, stressed that the ruling against RosKomSvoboda created a precedent, since the prosecutor in the case who was in charge of enforcing anti-extremist legislation was able to prove that this information creates conditions for users to access
extremist materials. Ampelonsky said the ruling could inform the future work of prosecutors and courts, when it comes to policing information that helps Russians circumvent censorship.
It is worth nothing that just a month
earlier, in January 2016, Ampelonsky told the news agency RBC TV that circumventing online censorship does not violate the law.
RosKovSvoboda's website was eventually unblocked after they changed the contents of their page with
circumvention instructions. It now contains their report on the court battle and an official Ministry of Communications letter, which provides explanations for some of the circumvention tools that the page previously linked to and explained. The
activists also moved information and links to some other anonymizing and encryption tools to a separate page for their Open RuNet campaign.
For now, Roscomnadzor's spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky has confirmed to RBC news that the
regulator worked with a group of copyright owners in Russia to draft the amendments to Russia's law On information, information technologies and protection of information and the Administrative violations code. On March 17 the draft was discussed
with Internet industry representatives at a Roscomnadzor roundtable on regulating the RuNet, with companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Yandex and MailRu in attendance. The bill will now go to the Communications Ministry on March 21 before it moves to
the Russian Duma for voting.
The central Asian state of Georgia is planning to introduce a blasphemy law criminalising insults to religion.
The bill would mean a 300 lari fine, around £84, or a week's average salary, for insults to religious feelings . The desecration
of a religious building or symbol would result in a fine of 500 lari, equivalent to about £140. In each case, a second offence would attract double the fine.
However there has also been criticism of the bill. Rusudan Gotsiridze, an Evangelical
Baptist, and the first female bishop in Georgia has spoken out against the bill, describing it as terrible and warning:
This law is not going to protect anyone; at least not the minorities, and will be a
powerful tool against freedom of speech.
Republican Party MP and member of the coalition, Tamar Kordzaia, has also criticised the measure:
A perceived insult to religious feelings should be disputed
by an individual. The state can never know if some particular action is offensive to a particular individual.
The ruling coalition endorsed the plans at a meeting of the misleadingly named human rights committee.
Georgia has dropped a proposed anti-blasphemy bill
ardently opposed by freedom-of-speech activists. The draft appeared to be causing a split in the ruling Georgian Dream coalition -- never desirable in a parliamentary election year. Saying that the bill needs more work, parliamentarian Soso Jachvliani on
February 15 withdrew his own proposal, which already had been conditionally approved by parliament's human rights committee. Parliamentary Speaker Davit Usupashvili announced that the legislature has stopped discussion of the legislation.
the critics, One Georgian Orthodox priest, Deacon Tamaz Lomidze, described it as absurd:
Who can define religious feelings? What judge can rule on whether a certain action is insulting to someone's religion?
Amnesty International said that the bill threatened to:
Outlaw criticism of religious leaders and institutions, and suppress free speech on topical political and social issues, including the rights of
women, of lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex people, and of religious minorities.
A human rights organization that monitors web-censorship and pirate site blocks in Russia has been ordered to be blocked by a local court. A legal challenge was initiated bit it failed to convince prosecutors.
When it comes to blocking websites,
Russia is becoming somewhat of a world leader. Although not in the same league as China, the country blocks thousands of websites on grounds ranging from copyright infringement to the publication of extremist material, suicide discussion and the
promotion of illegal drugs.
The scale of the censorship is closely monitored by local website Roscomsvoboda. More commonly recognized by its Western-friendly URL RuBlacklist.net , the project advocates freedom on the Internet, monitors and
publishes data on block, and provides assistance to Internet users and site operators who are wrongfully subjected to restrictions.
It was advise on circumventing blocking that appears to have irked authorities, prompting a court process against
the site that began in the first half of 2015. However, while the courts want the circumvention advice URL banned, it is standard practice in Russia to block URLs and IP addresses, meaning that RuBlocklist will be blocked in its entirety.
website next says that it will takes its case against censorship to regional court and Russia's supreme court if necessary.