Techdirt is off for Memorial Day. We'll be back with regularly scheduled posting tomorrow!Hide

Russian Official Threatens To Block Twitter And Facebook In Russia

from the no-big-risk dept

Last month, we noted that Russia had passed a new law that required bloggers to registers, and included a variety of other restrictions on their speech as well. A few weeks later, Putin signed the law. Now the Russian government is getting ready to implement it, and it appears that they're threatening to block access to Facebook and Twitter to enforce the law. The interview (in Russian) of Maxim Ksenzov, the deputy head of Roscom, suggests that the Russian government has a particular distaste for Twitter especially.

He complains about how Twitter and Facebook don't have offices in Russia, and thus communication with those two companies has been less productive (and also about how they're making money in Russia but not paying Russian taxes). Ksenzov highlights that Twitter "categorically refuses" to remove content that the Russian government finds illegal. He complains that it has allowed "extremist" content to live on and that "calling for the overthrow of existing political regimes" is terrible speech that "cannot be explained in terms of free speech." Except, of course, many believers in free speech would argue otherwise.

Either way, he makes it clear that because Twitter "consistently refuses" to block content when the Russian government complains, it becomes "almost inevitable" that Russia will have to block all access to the site. He further notes that because Twitter and Facebook use HTTPS encryption, Russia may just block the entire sites, rather than trying to target certain content. He highlights how many other countries have chosen to block access to sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google. When he's questioned about taking restrictive measures on websites, he claims that they're not restrictive measures so much as enforcing the law and protecting Russians.

While he notes that he'd prefer that Russian services are better developed so that people don't feel the need to use American services, he says that Twitter and Facebook can be blocked "within minutes" and he doesn't see it as being a big risk to block those sites. He says that the Russian government will continue to evaluate the "threat," and if they perceive the risk to the Russian people to be more significant than the harm from shutting down those services, they won't hesitate to block all access to Twitter and Facebook.

And... just as I was finishing up this post, I see that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has (of all things) tweeted a response to this, saying "certain officials should think before announcing blocking of social networks in an interview." Subtle. Not surprisingly Ksenzov appears to have backed off his original claims slightly, but it still wouldn't surprise me to see Russia start cracking down on foreign social networks given recent events.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), May 16th, 2014 @ 11:02am

    And... just as I was finishing up this post, I see that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has (of all things) tweeted a response to this, saying "certain officials should think before announcing blocking of social networks in an interview."

    I'm sure he is a verified user so no problem. /sarc

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Michael, May 16th, 2014 @ 11:11am

    He further notes that because Twitter and Facebook use HTTPS encryption, Russia may just block the entire sites, rather than trying to target certain content

    What kind of crazy, backwards, oppressive, mind-numbingly stupid regime would just asssume that encrypted content on the internet is automatically suspicious?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 11:12am

    Nothing scares governments more than the free flow of words and ideas. How can the people be controlled if they're free to think for themselves!

    Heretics is the word used to describe such free thinkers. The political translation of the word heretic, is extremist.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    AricTheRed (profile), May 16th, 2014 @ 11:21am

    Re: People conspiring against their duly elected officials

    "What kind of crazy, backwards, oppressive, mind-numbingly stupid regime would just asssume that encrypted content on the internet is automatically suspicious?"

    Let's see, the easier question would be...

    What kind of crazy, backwards, mind-numbingly stupid regime would just asssume that encrypted content on the internet is NOT automatically suspicious?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    kenichi tanaka (profile), May 16th, 2014 @ 11:29am

    I don't disagree with Russia's stand on this issue. We spend so much time trying to equate American rules of law on other countries and it's not exactly the right way to go.

    Many countries are socialist, communist or whatever. Argue all you want, but if twitter, facebook, google, microsoft or whatever expect to continue to be accessible in other countries, regardless if they have offices or retail space in those countries, they are still legally bound to follow their laws.

    What amazes me is that people are shocked and surprised that this is happening. Did anyone honestly think that the fallout over Ukraine would stop and just be one-sided? The fallout continues and try as the United States might like, there isn't anything that Washington can do to penalize Russia.

    What's Russia to do? Well, they could align with China and many other countries who are tired of the United States meddling in everyone else's affairs.

    The United States has more to lose over this than Russia does and this is only going to make things worse for Washington now that we're in an election season. With Democrats running things, it's not going to be pretty for this country.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Michael, May 16th, 2014 @ 11:37am

    Re:

    You do understand that any technological means they use to block these services will be circumvented within minutes, don't you?

    Part of the craziness of this threat is how meaningless it actually is. We have seen a number of countries try to block popular social media services and it has not gone well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), May 16th, 2014 @ 11:50am

    Re:

    The entire list would be really freakin' long, so I'll just list the category:

    'Any oppressive government who desires the ability to, at any time and for whatever reason, know what everyone is doing and saying online, and believes it is their right to do so'

    Notable entries on the list would include the USG, UK, Russia, China, NK, and probably several others I'm forgetting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 11:52am

    Re:

    I don't disagree with Russia's stand on this issue.

    Do you realize that the most common reason for government officials acting like this is that they feel their grip on power slipping.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 12:08pm

    'Ksenzov highlights that Twitter "categorically refuses" to remove content that the Russian government finds illegal'

    all he's got to do is go to Cameron in the UK. he'll get the stuff removed for the Russians. he doesn't mind doing whatever he can think of to fuck up the Internet!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Felsefeci, May 16th, 2014 @ 12:34pm

    Soviet Style

    Russia is coming for oppression. They're threatening the world with their oppressive culture. Exlpoiting the national resources of several puppet so called republics in the federation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 12:37pm

    It's like someone made a bet with Putin & friends and said "I bet you can't turn Russia into China by the end of your current mandate!" and then Putin was like "OH YEAH? I'll do it in just one year!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 12:38pm

    Coming next to the UK(TM)!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 12:44pm

    Re:

    The russian "equivalents" to the american services are pretty tightly controlled. Read up on Pavel Durov and VKontakte or the new moral preservative legislation in Russia. The comments presented here falls completely in line with that.

    That it is unfortunate to equate USA and Russia (or any other country for that matter) I can agree with, but it doesn't exactly make what the Russian Federation does on these matters an improvement for freedom of speech. FSB is not exactly known for being well-regulated and liberal on these matters either.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    afn29129 (profile), May 16th, 2014 @ 1:17pm

    Iron Curtain being re-built.....

    So we see the signs of the old Iron Curtain being re-built.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Brazilian Guy, May 16th, 2014 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re:

    And you understand that by writing new laws, they will make circumventing those blocks unlawfull, along with pretty much any legitimate aplication of proxies, and then they will simply process people in their courts.

    This isn't Communism vs. Capitalism, its about concentration of power. Media in the last 60-80 years has been power, in the form of radio and tv. Newspapers emerged even further back, and had enormous political impact. But they were all broadcasting midia - you get a message emited to all the audience, but you have control of the feedback. And through the 20th century, most countries had institutional media censorship offices, who allowed the established political order to entrench itself ideologically in the collective consciouness. Many Countries still do.

    But the internet flourished at the end of the 90's, under USA discourse of taking political freedom and knowledge to the whole world. As such, it was pretty much distrusted by many stablishments, and embraced by many insatisfied young people. The descentralization of the content in the internet has pretty much allowed that insatisfied youth to become influent and political without much state supervision. As the internet slowly takes center as the main source of media of the population, more and more the content will be cerceated by nations in the entire world.

    My country and my current government has a lot of issues, but the stance of Brazil's president Dilma that internet access and speech must become a human right of the 21st century sounds about right. If an international pact isn't reached soon about the theme, not only of content but on finances, every country will start taking their pie and going out of the party.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    kenichi tanaka (profile), May 16th, 2014 @ 1:56pm

    Everything about these blocks and bans on websites and social media are just about various governments trying to one-up each other. If anyone thought it was about a country's laws, they're wrong. It nothing more but a massive power grab and who has the most leverage.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    The Wanderer (profile), May 16th, 2014 @ 2:43pm

    Re:

    I think the idea is "because we can't inspect the traffic to determine which HTTPS requests are for content we object to, as we could with HTTP, we would have no choice but to block the entire site in order to make sure no one accesses the objectionable content".

    Still bad, but not the same thing as "it's bad because it's encrypted", even though it would potentially produce the same result.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    AricTheRed (profile), May 16th, 2014 @ 3:14pm

    Re: Soviet Style

    IN RUSSIA!
    Facebook blocks YOU!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 3:15pm

    Re:

    "I don't disagree with Russia's stand on this issue. We spend so much time trying to equate American rules of law on other countries and it's not exactly the right way to go."

    I'd like to think freedom of speech is something every government should defend without hesitation. No country, including Russia, should ever adopt "Russia's stand on this issue." Pretending it's just an "American" thing is to deny its importance in a free society.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    HMTKSteve, May 16th, 2014 @ 4:15pm

    Overthrow?

    He complains that it has allowed "extremist" content to live on and that "calling for the overthrow of existing political regimes" is terrible speech that "cannot be explained in terms of free speech."


    Does that include Ukraine?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 5:47pm

    I could see a lot of smaller free VPNs being used in Russia because of this. I have a small free VPN that mostly caters to people who want to bypass firewalls to get internet radio and TV at work, as I see nothing wrong with internet radio at work, as long as your WORK is getting DONE.

    While Russia would block the major commercial VPN providers, the smaller sites, like mine, would likely slip under the radar.

    This is why, for example, Iran's proposed VPN ban will never work. Sure, they can stop people from using major VPN services, but smaller sites, like mine, that have sprung up thanks to the SoftEther open source VPN software, will likely slip under the radar.

    Thanks to SoftEther, a lot of smaller VPN sites now exist, and it will be impossible for Iran to stop those. I see a lot of connections from Iran into my VPN, and Iran's VPN bill will certainly not stop this.

    If Russia starts blocking social media and a lot of Russians start connecting, I could see having to upgrade to higher bandwidth to support them.

    I, myself, log into my VPN when I go to places like Starbucks, or the local libary, which puts my behind my firewall and behind my anti-virus software.

    This is also done to foil any NSA eavesdropping that may be going on. They only thing the NSA spooks would know is that was connecting to my VPN, while at Starbucks, but they would never be ableto determine what I am up to.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    zip, May 16th, 2014 @ 9:10pm

    protectionism

    I think that this is largely a part of the growing "Buy Russian" movement that the Russian government has been promoting, a central idea being that putting restrictions on foreign (especially American) companies will help "level the playing field" giving domestic startups a better chance to compete.

    In another example, Russia is also trying to replace US-based payment processors with a Russian-government-financed (Ruble-based) online payment system.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/06/russia-security-deposit-visa-mastercard-sanction s-ukraine

    Considering the way the US government routinely slaps embargoes and trade sanctions on other countries to keep them subservient, can you really blame any government for trying to wean itself off American products and services?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2014 @ 9:35pm

    Re: protectionism

    The trouble is that with the SoftEther open source VPN software, there will be thousands of free VPN servers out there. As I am writing this, there are 5,921 servers in the vpngate.net list, and almost certainly many times that not in the list.

    SoftEther would make banning or licensing VPNs all but impossible to enforce. Free services, unlike the big commercial providers, are only subject to the laws of whatever country they are in.

    So, if, say, Britain restricts VPN use, a kid running a free server in his bedroom, in the USA, for example, would be NOT SUBJECT to British laws. An American teenager running a free VPN servers in his bedroom, using open source VPN server software would be NOT SUBJECT to the laws of Iran, Britain, Russia, or any other foreign country that chooses to ban or restrict VPN usage. Said kid would be ONLY subject to AMERICAN laws

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2014 @ 1:16am

    Lets not ignore that russia has its own facebook, so unless they block that too you cant say that they do it to prevent people from speaking out against them.

    And facebook regularly blocks "extermist" content when the US media asks them to. Have you seen any anti-semitic groups lately? According to a recent study, 1/3 of the world is very anti-semitic, but this is hardly noticable on facebook.

    Seriously, stop hating on russia for the wrong reasons.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2014 @ 5:43am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yeah, that will work because it worked so well in Turkey. Good luck with that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2014 @ 10:11am

    Re:

    Lets not ignore that russia has its own facebook, so unless they block that too you cant say that they do it to prevent people from speaking out against them.


    Yes you can. The Russian government controls VKontakte (the Russian Facebook).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), May 19th, 2014 @ 5:40am

    Re:

    There is never a wrong reason to hate on Russia. Much like the US and the UK, Iran, Israel, Australia, China, both Koreas, Japan, India, the EU...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, May 20th, 2014 @ 5:33am

    Re:

    Actually, it's "Socialist." FIFY

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, May 20th, 2014 @ 3:59pm

    But how will people survive without Twitter or Facebook? The world will stop turning and gravity will cease to exist!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Advertisement
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Chat
Techdirt Reading List
Advertisement
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Support Techdirt - Get Great Stuff!

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.