Representatives of the State Duma of Russian Federation have informed Digital Report that Russian Duma deputies have expressed interest in creating online youth groups to search the Internet for illegal content. Youth activists in Volgograd Oblast, organising into a People’s Self-Censorship Brigade, are actively searching for this content, aiming to root if out of the Russian space. According to our sources, these youth may become an example for a draft law to create these brigades across Russia.
As Digital Report has already reported, the authorities of Volgograd Oblast of Russia previously supported a proposal by local youth to create groups to search for forbidden content in social networks. The volunteers planned to use their own accounts to hunt for suspicious and forbidden content. “Specialists” from the headquarters of the group would determine just how dangerous this content really is and what action should be taken.
Lawmakers believe that the self-censorship scheme practiced by Volgograd activists would work in any region of Russia. Importantly, it does not require government financing and involves the youth in assisting with societal problems. Thanks to the volunteers, the legislators feel it will be much easier to track distribution of information on terrorist activities, arms, and illegal drugs trade.
In order to create a law, according to Duma deputies, the movement needs lawmakers’ support. The government must stimulate the aspiration of citizens “to put their homes and their Internet in order.” This is especially important, legislators feel, as this movement originated with youth who could not stand the direction the development of the Internet was taking and proposed this new way to monitor the Web. As the proposal found support and understanding on regional level, People’s Self-Censorship Brigades may well cover all of Russia.
It is still unclear is what the members of the youth brigades will receive for their service to Russia. While officially volunteers, it is likely they will receive some form of compensation from the authorities for their work. One possible form of payment is preferential treatment for university admissions or for assistance in obtaining public employment. The brigadiers’ position is all the stronger as Russian authorities bemoan the lack of qualified specialists ready to work with the new public information instruments.
The legal future of the Brigades is still very unclear. According to our information, lawmakers are very interested in involving active youth in Internet monitoring activities. But we currently do not know how these Brigades would be created and function in other parts of the country. That is not the only question; how would the brigades coordinate their activities? How would the data they collect be processed?
In addition, it is hard to determine what the effect the People’s Self-Censorship Brigades will have on Russian Internet communities. One distinct possibility is that this will have a chilling effect on open speech in public forums, leading to a more fragmented and closed RuNet.