Another day, another restriction legislated (another liberty usurped) by the Russian Parliament, or to be more precise, another presidential decree rubberstamped by the parliament on Putin's behalf. Don't forget, his is a strategy of incremental rather than precipitous embrace of absolute authoritarianism.

 

The internet in particular, with its chaotic, polyphonic and fractal nature, is a wild beast to tame, especially by coaxing rather than whipping if, like Vlad, you are hiding under the veil of legitimacy and purportedly drinking from the chalice of democracy. Although internet containments laws have already been tentatively established (see the aptly named "Internet Black List" and the Orwellian "Russian Federal Surveillance Service for Mass Media and Communications"), there is always room for further improvement (i.e. tightening of the straps / silencing of dissent). Unfortunately for Putin, in the mid-1990s he was not in a position to nip the whole internet-thing in the bud at it was gaining a foothold in Russian society, (he was transitioning from the St. Petersburg administration to Moscow).

 

Now that he is in such a position, the beast has already spread its clutches wide and deep, so switching it off is not an option (people need their daily Lolcat fix) and the more fanciful scenario of developing a decoupled isolated domestic version of the internet (an idea floated last month in the Duma) has a long gestation period ahead. Thus, the step-by-step methodology of crippling its power by chess moves that fall under two broad categories (a) censoring its content and (b) tightening its surveillance, the same principles governing the reigning in the media and public discourse at large.

 

The latest legislation requiring bloggers et al. to "register" with the authorities falls under the latter tactical methodology which ultimately aims to extinguish anonymity and therefore, in the context of an authoritarian administration, to intimidate and silence any dissent or criticism. And to make this even clearer all records are to be stored domestically for 6 months (i.e. facilitated access, lawful or no; let's not forget Vlad has been reared & groomed in the loving bosom of KGB). Of course this also a jab at foreign platforms that the government cannot explicitly censor (or completely block, so far at least).

 

The same law also stokes the cindering fires of censorship by making them (bloggers et al. with more than 3000 daily visitors) accountable for the accuracy of information published. Again, in the context of a judicial system swayed at best (strong-armed at worst) by an unaccountable tyrranical executive, "accuracy", "truth" and "facts" become just some malleable concepts for the authorities to fashion as they see fit; so what the law ultimately dictates is accountability to the official version of accuracy.

 

Suffice to say, it won be long before the internet, the last vestige of freedom of expression in the Russia, will be completely muffled by the powers that be. One though has to really feel for restive, cagey Vlad who surely would have wished for the whole thing to have been dealt with in the erstwhile soviet ways of resolute actions and nuclear options so to speak. Back in the good old days tapping into phone lines, intercepting the occasional paper message or incinerating unauthorized printing presses was all there was, whereas now good luck decrypting cryptosystem algorithms, hacking into remote servers, rerouting around VPN routers, sorting through internet exchange points, infiltrating access points and breaching through firewalls.

 

 

Russia Quietly Tightens Reins on Web With ‘Bloggers Law’

May 09, 2014 | RUSSIAN GLAS•NOT

The Internet of Others