The Internet under Siege in Putin’s Russia

p1020316ru1Our staff translation (corrections welcome) of a blog post in Russian by Live Journal blogger “Plucer” dated February 11th:

The Russian government as a whole, and the leadership of the Ministry of Interior in particular, have decided on the complete and final abolition in Russia of the right of writers and artists to use pseudonyms. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, anonymity in the creation of texts of all kinds is one of the main sources of all crimes in the Russian Federation. In particular the decision to destroy the rights of Russian writers and artists to create online texts and recorded under pseudonyms on the web anonymously has been taken.

Today, 10 February, the MIA has officially stated that “the degree of anonymity on the Internet should be reduced.”  The Director of the MIA’s Bureau of Special Technologies, Colonel General Boris Miroshnikov, demanded in the strongest terms of the elimination of anonymity in the registration of Internet users and the enhancement of criminal liability for the dissemination of copyrighted information in the network. “Anonymity is an invitation to crime, this is a very dark road, where the atrocities going on. Throw some light on it, and crime will be less,”  said the Colonel. Thus, the Russian government believes that the “bad guys” enjoy the fact that the internet allows you to hide under a pseudonym, even to hide in a foreign country where there is no Russian jurisdiction, and there is no possibility of criminal prosecution of Russian authors.

Since the focus is the written word, under the MIA’s new policy the notion of the “hacker’ implies first of all the authors of such texts,  including writers, artists, journalists and other cultural workers. According to Interfax, the officers of the secret police will fight to the last drop of their blood for “improving discipline among the sponsors of the Internet.” Countermeasures will be dramatically enhanced and will be taken “in close cooperation with other law enforcement agencies.” The Ministry of Communciations has pledged to add its own efforts to this heroic struggle against authors.

12 responses to “The Internet under Siege in Putin’s Russia

  1. “Stalin” was a pseudonym.

    Does that mean that all of his “writings” have to be thrown out?

    Or that noone can say that name again?

    “Throw some light on it.”

    They are “throwing the light” in the wrong direction.

  2. Your take on this is bizarre given that CNET News carried the following article only yesterday:

    “Republican politicians on Thursday called for a sweeping new federal law that would require all Internet providers and operators of millions of Wi-Fi access points, even hotels, local coffee shops, and home users, to keep records about users for two years to aid police investigations.”

    The legislation… would impose unprecedented data retention requirements on a broad swath of Internet access providers and is certain to draw fire from businesses and privacy advocates.”
    John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said at a press conference on Thursday. “Keeping our children safe requires cooperation on the local, state, federal, and family level.”

    Joining Cornyn was Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who said such a measure would let “law enforcement stay ahead of the criminals.”

    Two bills have been introduced so far—S.436 in the Senate and H.R. 1076 in the House. Each of the companion bills is titled “Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today’s Youth Act,” or Internet Safety Act.

    Each contains the same language: “A provider of an electronic communication service or remote computing service shall retain for a period of at least two years all records or other information pertaining to the identity of a user of a temporarily assigned network address the service assigns to that user.”

    You can access the full text of the CNET article here: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10168114-38.html?tag=mncol;title

    Interestingly the European Union already passed a similar law with almost identical provisions in 2006. The European law, called EU Directive 2006/24, took effect on January 1, 2009.

    While most Americans think of the internet as a vast unregulated network, in fact almost all U.S. internet communications travels over an “internet backbone” which is owned and controlled by a mere handful of giant US telecommunications companies, such as AT&T.

    The U.S. National Security Administration (NSA) is known to have installed sophisticated monitoring equipment that sucks in and stores all of the internet traffic passing over the backbone. This allows the U.S. government to reconstruct any individual’s internet and email activity, after the fact. If a particular person is “of interest” the feds can see every web page that person accessed, every post he authored and every email he ever sent or received. They can reconstruct anyone’s internet activity, including playing videos the person might have viewed. The technology used by the U.S. government is the Narus STA 6400, which was originally developed to allow ISPs to “packet sniff” the internet traffic of their customers, in order to target advertising at them.

    Mark Klein, a retired AT&T engineer had this to say:

    “In 2002, when I was working in an AT&T office in San Francisco, the site manager told me to expect a visit from a National Security Agency agent, who was to interview a management-level technician for a special job. The agent came, and by chance I met him and directed him to the appropriate people.

    In January 2003, I, along with others, toured the AT&T central office on Folsom Street in San Francisco—actually three floors of an SBC building. There I saw a new room being built adjacent to the 4ESS switch room where the public’s phone calls are routed. I learned that the person whom the NSA interviewed for the secret job was the person working to install equipment in this room. The regular technician work force was not allowed in the room.”

    According to Klein, this room contained (among other things) a Narus STA 6400 traffic analyzer into which all of AT&T’s Internet and phone traffic was routed; Klein himself helped wire the splitter box that made this possible. In addition to AT&T’s own traffic, Klein alleges that the company also routed its peering links into the splitter, meaning that any traffic that passed through AT&T’s own network could be scanned. Furthermore, San Francisco wasn’t the only place such secret rooms were built; Klein claims that AT&T offices in Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego also have them.

    Based on Klein’s allegations, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a lawsuit against AT&T and other telecommunications providers claiming that by willfully transmitting customer’s private communications to the NSA (without a warrant) the companies had violated their customer’s privacy rights. The response of the U.S. Congress was to hastily pass a law granting telecommunication providers retroactive (ex post facto) immunity from such lawsuits.

    The full article can be accessed here: http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2006/04/6585.ars

    Here is a map showing the locations of U.S. NSA taps on the Internet backbone in the U.S. http://www.nsawatch.org/nsa_octopus.jpg

    Given the extensive internet monitoring and control in U.S. and Europe, it is absurd to point an accusing finger Russia merely because Russia has proposed relatively modest controls, designed to aid in the prosecution of serious criminal cases. Compared to the U.S. and Europe, the Internet in Russia is still a veritable Wild West.

    Precisely because there are so few controls on the Internet, Russia has now become a hub for Internet criminals of every sort. The lack of any effective logging and data retention rules in Russia has made Russia a magnet for Internet criminals of every stripe, including highly organized international criminal operations specializing in child pornography and large-scale credit card fraud.
    Many server hosting companies in Russia specifically advertise that they do not log activities on their servers, thus opening the door for international criminals to commit their crimes, using Russian-based proxy servers, while remaining anonymous.

    On many occasions Russian law enforcement agencies have receives tips, frequently from Western law enforcement agencies, about illegal activities apparently originating from IP addresses located within the borders of the Russian Federation. But when Russian law enforcement responds to these leads, the trail frequently goes cold when it is discovered that there is simply no way to find out who uploaded the illegal material to the Russian server in the first place.

    For example, child pornography investigations often cross international lines, as the network of individuals posting and accessing such content may be located in many different countries. If the American FBI discovers that 1000 different IP addresses were involved in posting and accessing child pornography, it can only investigate those cases where the IP addresses are located within the borders of the United States. But the FBI will communicate its information to INTERPOL and to law enforcement agencies in other countries for them to follow up. When Russian law enforcement agencies receive such information it often results only in a dead end, simply because Russian law enforcement, unlike its Western counterparts, lacks an effective way to tie a specific ISP addresses back to a specific individuals. This means that the perpetrators of serious crimes too often go free.

    It might appear that some illegal activity has originated in Russia, simply because the IP address from which that activity appears to have originated happens to be located within the Russian Federation. However Russian servers are frequently used as “proxies” by criminals based in other countries, and the individuals actually engaging in illegal activity might be located anywhere in the world. Without logging and data retention rules there’s simply no way to know who uploaded the illegal content or even what country it originated from.

    Sure, Russian law enforcement can physically shut down or even seize an offending server, once they discover it, but the same illegal content will often only pop up again on some other server, sometimes only hours later. Most servers used in crimes are not physically “owned” by criminals, who prefer not to own assets that can be easily seized by law enforcement agencies. Rather illegal activities are routed through servers which are owned by legitimate commercial internet hosting services.

    In summary, the laws now being proposed in Russia will only bring Russian internet practices more in line with what is already being done in Western countries. The target of Russian law enforcement agencies are genuine criminals, not innocent users of the Internet who want to post some political thought on a discussion board. No one in Russia is proposing that the Russian government ought to go as far as the US, by using giant supercomputers to monitor and store the internet and email communications of each and every citizen on a wholesale basis. But even if Russia did propose doing that, the US (least of all) would have any right to point an accusing finger at Russia, given the reality of the rather Orwellian scale of the Internet monitoring now taking place in the U.S.

    It is true that some activities are crimes in Russia which might not be considered to be crimes in other jurisdictions. Laws differ from country to country. For example, there are all sorts of Internet “hate sites” (neo-Nazi, skinhead, and so forth) which are hosted in the United States, where such “views” are protected by the U.S. constitution. However in Germany, it is illegal to express such opinions. In France it is a crime to question whether the Turkish Armenian genocide ever took place. (The French parliament apparently already settled this contentious issue once and for all).
    Russia is a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional federal republic. Russia has strong laws against “extremism,” which prohibit the expression of speech that would offend against the general civil order, such as “hate speech” directed against specific ethnic or religious minorities, speech calling for genocide, etc. Certainly some individuals and groups in Russia are using the anonynimity afforded by the Internet to evade these laws, and such activities are also a legitimate target for Russian law enforcement agencies.

    Some years ago there was a case which involved the US website Yahoo. Someone in the US was selling Nazi relics through Yahoo’s U.S. auction site. This is perfectly legal in the US, but the sale or possession of Nazi war relics is illegal in France. A French court ruled that Yahoo had to block access to the offending site for French web surfers or pay a daily fine of 10,000 French francs. Of course anyone familiar with how the Internet actually works would immediately see the ridiculousness of this. Does this mean that all websites have to operate according to the “lowest common denominator” of national laws? For example, if it is illegal in China to question the legitimacy of Communist Party rule, then should a Chinese court be allowed to force a US-based websites to block the expression of such opinions? This obviously raises all sorts of interesting questions. I don’t claim to have all the answers. But it is absurd (though not unusual of course for LR) to take the hysterical “blame Russia first” approach to such a complicated and nuanced issue.

    You can read about the Yahoo case here: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=yahoo+france+nazi&btnG=Search

    LA RUSSOPHOBE RESPONDS:

    Don’t comment at this length again Misha, you ridiculous freak, or you’ll simply be deleted and/or banned. Whose blog do you think this is, anyway?

  3. my translation:

    Russian government in general and the top brass of Interior Ministry in particular decided to completely and irreversibly deny Russia writers and artists the right to use pseudonyms. According to Russian Interior Ministry, anonymity in the creation of all kinds of texts is one of the main sources of all crimes in the Russian Federation. In particular Russian writers and artists are prohibited to create online texts under pseudonyms or anonymously.

    Today, 10 February, RIM has officially stated that “the degree of anonymity on the Internet should be reduced.” The Director of the RIM’s Bureau of Special Technologies, Colonel General Boris Miroshnikov, demanded in the strongest terms the elimination of anonymity during Internet users the registration and increased criminal liability for the dissemination of copyrighted information on the Internet. “Anonymity is an invitation to crime, this is the very dark corner, where the atrocities are going on. Put some light on it, and crime will decrease,” Colonel said. Thus, the Russian government believes that the troublemakers enjoy the fact that the Internet allows to hide behind a pseudonym, even to hide in a foreign country where there is no Russian jurisdiction, and there is no possibility of criminal prosecution of Russian authors.

    Since the focus is the written word, the “troublemakers” in RIM’s new policy are first of all the authors of such texts, including writers, artists, journalists and other creative types. Interfax reports top brass of the secret police will fight to the last drop of their blood for “improving discipline among the online authors.” Countermeasures will be dramatically increased and will be taken “in close cooperation with other law enforcement agencies.” Communications Ministry has pledged to add its own efforts to this heroic struggle against authors.

  4. Don’t you all see what’s going on? Russia is aping China now, just like it did Europe and USA before. But Chinese are hard workers while Russians have always been lazy drunkards. Laziness as they say is the mother of all sins.

  5. LR

    Russian Internet is free now. I live in Russia now and I use Internet and pseudonym without any problems. There are many different sources in Russia Net now. E.g. La Russophobe is available for Russian readers.
    Ex altera parte you should mean that there are a criminal problems. And is necessary to invent a new methods to fight against terrorists, drugproducers and other criminal. I do not see any problems if I will be deprive of right for pseudonymous.
    Such problems is not unique in Russia. There is USA Patriot Act which has restricted many of USA citizen`s rights.

    LA RUSSOPOBE RESPONDS:

    Liar. Read the “internet” category in our sidebar and learn about bloggers who have been charged with crimes for making “inappropriate” posts and who have been harrassed and threatened by KGB commenters.

    http://georgiandaily.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10094&Itemid=72

    Moreover, even if the Internet were free Russia has an average wage of $4/hour and 80% of Russians have no regular access to the Internet because it is far too expensive.

    Please at least try acquaint yourself with the actual facts before you spew forth your utter nonsense. Your lies are just like the Soviet lies that destroyed the USSR. They will destroy Russia too.

  6. The rashan liars have indeed shown up.

    Does the name Taras Zeleniak ring a bell?

    LR has previously posted his story here, about how he got arrested for posting something on a web site that wasn’t even in rasha.

  7. elmer

    The fact that I correspond with you proves that Russian Internet connect is free!

    LA RUSSOPHOBE RESPONDS:

    Umm, sorry to intrude on your vodka-induced stupor, but wouldn’t you have to be saying NEGATIVE things about the Kremlin for that to be true?

  8. LR, you beat me to it.

    Rashan, the fact that you can get on this site only proves that – you can get on this site.

    It doesn’t prove any freedom of expression, and freedom of speech in rasha.

    Taras Zeleniak posted an opinion on a web site outside of rasha – and was arrested.

    LR has posts about him and others.

    You are just another typical rooskie sovok who thinks that rasha’s abysmal government is somehow great.

    How many times have I heard from stoopid rooskies “look at Pushkin, Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy”?

    Yeah, and what does that have to do with government?

    The fact that Tchaikovsky wrote great music somehow proves that rasha now has great government?

    Only stoopid rooskie sovoks spout that.

    They don’t believe it, but they spout it.

    Stoopid little rooskie sovoks like you believe that everyone else is stupid, and that everyone else is stupid enough to believe stoopid rooskie sovok lies.

    It simply doesn’t work that way.

  9. LR

    There are many bad things connected with Kremlin but you are Russophobes фтв you obviously announced aims to destroyed Russia. Do you think that Russians will be voted indeed against Putin to destroy Russia (as you want), don`t you?

  10. Actually “I am Russian”, I don’t want to destroy Russia, I want Russia to stop trying to destroy its neighbors.

  11. Andrew, well said.

  12. Your propaganda is funny to me, I’ve even sent your articles to my friends in America and Britain, and they ridiculed it about as much as I did!

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