Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Moscow Giving Up on Plans for a Separate Russian Internet and Targeting Users Instead, Russian Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 1 – As recently as two or three years ago, Russian officials declared and experts feared that would make good on Putin regime threats to create “a sovereign Russian Internet” cut off from the rest of the world much as is the case with North Korea. But economic and technical challenges have forced the Kremlin to change course.

            Instead of cutting off the Russian segment of the Internet from the world entirely, something that would hurt Moscow’s  economic interests and be extremely difficult and expensive to do, the Putin regime instead has decided to target users, threatening them with criminal sanctions if they visit sites Moscow doesn’t approve of (theins.ru/obshestvo/262737).

            Even that is a challenge, Russian experts say, and it will not win the Kremlin as much as it may hope. At present, the Internet is anything but transparent as officials can track users via their IP addresses and other means. This new approach will simply make that policy more obvious and thus cast a pall of fear over the population.

            To go further than that, even to go as far as China has, would be enormously difficult because of the extensive contacts Russian internet users have had up to now. It would necessitate a truly totalitarian approach; and that would be counterproductive as far as the country’s banks and remaining companies with international contacts are concerned

            But for the time being, talk about a sovereign “Runet” is misplaced. Instead, end users rather than the system itself is going to be in the sights of Russian officialdom, whatever Putin and his regime continue to say. 

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