As Western Democracies Ramp Up Efforts To Censor Social Media, Russia Appears To Feel Emboldened To Do More Itself
from the this-is-how-it-works dept
With various legislative efforts in Western democracies designed to force websites to take down perfectly lawful, but “awful” speech, it appears that more authoritarian countries are feeling even more emboldened to do more of the same. Case in point: Russia.
Over the last few years Russia has been fairly aggressive in trying to control the internet, even to the point of exploring ways to cut itself off from the public internet (we assume that Russia’s state sponsored trolling operations will retain their access).
Obviously, Russia threatening internet companies isn’t particularly new. We’ve had many, many, many examples of such efforts. However, the NY Times suggests that the latest crackdown is very much focused on the biggest internet providers: Google, Facebook, and Twitter:
Russia?s internet regulator, Roskomnadzor, recently ramped up its demands for the Silicon Valley companies to remove online content that it deems illegal or restore pro-Kremlin material that had been blocked. The warnings have come at least weekly since services from Facebook, Twitter and Google were used as tools for anti-Kremlin protests in January. If the companies do not comply, the regulator has said, they face fines or access to their products may be throttled.
The latest clashes flared up this week, when Roskomnadzor told Google on Monday to block thousands of unspecified pieces of illegal content or it would slow access to the company?s services. On Tuesday, a Russian court fined Google 6 million rubles, or about $81,000, for not taking down another piece of content.
On Wednesday, the government ordered Facebook and Twitter to store all data on Russian users within the country by July 1 or face fines. In March, the authorities had made it harder for people to see and send posts on Twitter after the company did not take down content that the government considered illegal. Twitter has since removed roughly 6,000 posts to comply with the orders, according to Roskomnadzor. The regulator has threatened similar penalties against Facebook.
Again, as we noted recently, these efforts at “data localization” again first began in Western democracies, claiming that it was to “protect the privacy” of people in those countries. But now you have Russia and China using identical arguments not to protect privacy, but to enable greater surveillance and intimidation.
This is important to remember, especially as many people pushing to regulate the internet think only in the context of the US (or perhaps Western Europe) without recognizing how the same rules can and will be abused around the globe. The internet is a global system, and hopefully it will remain that way. But situations like this create larger and larger challenges to keeping that true in the future.