Staunton, October 7 – The Russian government is proposing new legislation that will ban the use of many codes used by sites to allow for the safe transmission of data because the availability and use of these codes would make it difficult if not impossible for Moscow to block sites it doesn’t approve of.
But the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs warns that such a law would be equivalent to cutting off Russia from the world wide web and impose a huge competitive disadvantage on Russian companies and seriously limit the legitimate actions of ordinary Russians (roskomsvoboda.org/64808/ and kommersant.ru/doc/4520053).
Because of this objection, the finance ministry which prepared the draft legislation has agreed to convene a working group to examine the issue, but it has made clear that if the basic provisions of the draft legislation are not adopted, the Russian government will not be able to block sites it finds objectionable.
The business group points out that if the law is adopted in its current form, Russians would be violating the law whenever they used computers and smartphones; and that it would also “paralyze the work of information systems” in Russia “leading to catastrophically negative consequences.”
Russian internet companies and firms like banks which rely heavily on the internet would find themselves deprived of the numerous advantages which codes give for their interactions with customers. And in some cases, where privacy is paramount, such as financial transactions, the law would force a shutdown of entire sectors.
IT experts with whom Kommersant spoke agree, and that makes the upcoming talks between industry and the ministry critical because they are one of the clearest examples ever of the conflict between the Russian government’s desire to control the population and its desire to make money.
If the law goes to the Duma in its current form, that will be a signal that the Putin regime has decided that its control of the Internet is more important than economic growth and technological development. If it is seriously revised as the business community wants, that will be a victory not just for business but for Russians who are increasingly active on the web.