April 04-10, 2015
Garry Kasparov takes his case to the European Court of Human Rights
Former world chess champion and current Russian oppositionist Garry Kasparov submitted a claim against Russian Internet and Media watchdog Roskomnadzor and the Prosecutor’s General Office to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In March 2014, Roskomnadzor blocked access to opposition websites Kasparov.ru, EJ.ru, Grani.ru, and Alexei Navalny’s blog. Mr. Kasparov says that Roskomnadzor and the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation are illegitimately suppressing the freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The ECHR is already reviewing Navalny’s and Grani’s claims regarding Roskomnadzor’s actions. Oppositionists claim that restrictions on access are illegitimate and that authorities aim to prevent access to information and are violating their right to the freedom of expression.
Azerbaijan takes a step to liberalize mobile market
The Ministry of Communication and High Technologies aims to settle pricing differences to call between mobile providers in Azerbaijan by the end of April 2015. Currently, mobile providers pay different rates to connect calls between different networks. This gives competitive advantages to some companies within Azerbaijan. Providers pay between .02-.05 Azerbaijani manat (AZN) (.02-.05 USD) to connect between different operators. However, as the rates differ between companies, this leads to discrepancies in services offered; a company that can offer inter-operator calls at .02 AZN is significantly more attractive than one that offers them at .05 AZN. In particular, operators Azercell and Bakcell are in favour of this, aiming to increase competition in the mobile market and bring better service to the consumer.
Russia to replace foreign software with national equivalents
In the wake of the Western sanctions, the Russian Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications has developed an import substitution plan to minimise dependence on foreign-created software. According to the plan, Russia will develop its own cloud services, operating systems, and data-centres. The Ministry will involve Russian developers as well as manufacturers from BRICS. Currently, the foreign software share on Russian market varies from 75% to 97% depending on the type of products and this plan aims to cut the share of foreign software on the Russian market to 50% by 2025. However, not all parties believe this will be easy or possible. The Association of Software Developers expressed its concerns about fiscal viability of the plan and notes that exactly how the plan will be carried out is unclear.
Ukrainian authorities raid major domain registrar
On April 7th 2015, Ukrainian law enforcement authorities raided several data-centres to find and confiscate servers of the major domain registrar NIC.UA. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) claims that NIC.UA registered pro-Russian websites assisted in “information aggression from Russian Federation.” According to the Director of NIC.UA, the court authorised the raid but no representatives of data-centres or other companies have seen the court order. It is not clear why authorities did not seek a court order forcing NIC.UA to block the offending websites. Problematically, the seizure of servers sets a bad precedent as any hosting servers can be confiscated without prior notice. In addition to freedom-of-expression concerns, the confiscation of servers has already caused NIC losses of 300,000 USD, increasing by 1,000 USD daily.
Theme of the Russian Internet Governance Forum — Internet governance and digital sovereignty
Internet governance and digital sovereignty were the primary foci of the 6th Annual Russian Internet Governance Forum (RIGF), held on April 7th 2015 in Moscow, Russia. This was not a particularly large surprise as the Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications announced prior to the Forum that it would present a plan on sovereignty of the RuNet at the end of April. Digital sovereignty has been of particular concern for Russian authorities since September 2014, and has become even more prominent since US sanctions have made the financial activities of Internet giants illegal in Crimea. In addition to protecting the Internet as critical infrastructure, Lieutenant-Governor of Chelyabinsk Ruslan Gattarov notes that additional regulation is crucial in the fight against cyber terrorism.