January 24-30 2015
Pressure on websites which publish religious caricatures
Russian regulator Roskomnadzor issued an official warning to an online newspaper RBK and 8 other websites regarding the publication of religious caricatures. Roskomnadzor’s press secretary Vadim Ampelonskiy confirmed the information and noted that one of the RBK’s article contained an image of a pile of Charlie Hebdo magazines. The magazines clearly showed a cover with an image of the prophet Muhammad. Mr. Ampelonskiy said that the illustration harms religious feelings and contributes to religious strife. RBK changed the image after receiving the warning. Earlier Roskomnadzor warned that it will consider religious caricatures as a breach of anti-extremist laws. Previously on January 16th 2015 the regulator issued warnings to runews24.ru, RB.ru, Lenoblinform, and Respublika (Republic), a Kazakhstani portal registered in Russia. This comes under a wider atmosphere of supporting limits on free speech for the stated cause of avoiding ethnic strife. On January 26th 2015, the Interreligious Council of Russia asked for limits on the freedom of speech to protect religious populations from offense. The prosecutor general of the Chechen Republic requested that 85 VK pages be blocked for posting Charlie Hebdo caricatures.
The Information Ministry of Belarus refuses to identify blocked sites
On January 22th 2015, the Ministry of Information limited access to two sites containing “vulgar language.” The Ministry said that the reason for restricting access is the vocabulary that is “capable of causing harm to the national interests of the Republic of Belarus, in particular, the development of spiritual and moral potential of society.” Representatives of the Ministry of Information refused to name blocked sites. According to the regulation on media, sites may be blocked due to the information they contain. Blocks can be imposed after two warnings and in the case of a single violation of the law, which gives the authorities wide powers to block information.
The Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications of Russia proposed to grant anonymity to public officials
The Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications of Russia proposed the anonymisation of government officials’ personal data on the Internet. The Ministry claims it is important for “the protection from threats to national security.” In July 2014, the State Duma passed new regulations requiring all users to identify themselves while using public Wi-Fi users and corporate Internet users. According to the laws, every three months corporate clients and state entities must submit a list of employees to their ISPs who use the Internet stating their names and home addresses. Minkomsvyaz proposed amending the legislation and exempting government entities and government officials from the compulsory identification requirement. As a result, contracts between operators and government entities will no longer include a compulsory identification clause. Anonymising users in government entities may only increase the risk of unauthorised persons accessing computer systems. In July 2014, the State Duma passed new regulations requiring organisations to identify all users within their organisations who use the Internet via a collective access point. This would allow the identification of all Internet users outside of their homes. The Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications of Russia proposed an amendment to this law that would allow for the exclusion of government officials, allowing them to remain anonymous while at work. The Ministry claims it is important for “protection from threats to national security.”
The Ministry of Culture proposed analysing all Internet traffic in Russia
In Russia the Ministry of Culture suggested that operators should analyse all Internet traffic in order to implement the Internet tax to protect copyright holders. The Russian Union of Copyright Holders introduced the Internet tax bill to protect copyright holders in Russia by imposing a tax payable by all Russian Internet users. The new bill introduces a register of copyright content and a global licensing system that will require all Internet users to pay a monthly charge determined by the Government. Copyright holders with this license will waive their rights to defend their copyrights in court and will receive monthly payments from a special entity collecting the monthly Internet tax from all Russian Internet users via their operators. In order to ensure that individuals receive the required funds, operators will have to keep track of users’ online activities. Major ISP’s, the Media Communications Union (the MCU) and the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (the RUIE) criticised the initiative arguing that it violates the Constitution and the WTO regulations. The RUIE also argues that the mechanism cannot be implemented due to technological implementations. The Ministry proposed a technology based on Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), that will identify users and compare their traffic to the register of copyright materials. Operators and Internet companies believe that this technology is still two to three years away. Megafon also argues that two-thirds of users do not use or download copyrighted content and would be unfairly taxed. Megafon also claims that the universal Internet tax and deep traffic analysis violate the Constitution.
The Russian Defense Ministry will use new technology to monitor media
Russian Defense Ministry will monitor the military-political and socio-economic situation in the world. With the help of technologies developed specifically for this purpose the Ministry will monitor and analyze the information in the media and social networks. The press center of the Ministry of Defense also reported that the system will support foreign languages in order to analyze both Russian and foreign sources. The motivation for the implementation of this technology can be a tense political situation related to Russia and Ukraine.
On January 28th 2015, video hosting Youtube became unavailable in Russia. Subscribers of providers Dom.ru, Rostelecom, Yota, Academ, Megaphone and MTS were unable to access the website. Roscomnadzor had previously included some Youtube pages in its register of prohibited content, but the website itself was not included. Operators explained the block as a technical issue caused by the use of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to block sites. This technology does not recognize encrypted HTTPS protocols and can inadvertently block entire websites rather than individual web pages.
Russian citizen files a lawsuit against Google
Anton Burkov sued Google for the use of an algorithm that Google uses which reads the content of the correspondence. Burkov noticed pop-up advertising services which were related to the content of his electronic correspondences. He said that he had not been informed of this and did not give permission to read his conversations, which he believes violates his individual privacy. According to Gmail’s Terms & Conditions all users agree allow Google to read users’ emails when signing up for an account. The company issued a statement stating that the Google monitors content of correspondences automatically, which helps protect from malicious software and improve the service. Burkov’s lawsuit is scheduled for February 16th 2015.