Increased Internet surveillance in Russia

By EDRi · November 7, 2012

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Zunehmende Überwachung des Internets in Russland |]

Several normative acts that have entered into force or are being
prepared in Russia bring forth an increased state surveillance
over the Internet and a blacklist of blocked websites and internet

In spite of strong criticism, the Russian Duma (the lower chamber of the
Parliament) seems determined to apply state and legislative actions that
would limit freedom of speech and the dissemination of information on
the Internet.

Thus, the final section of the Russian “Law on the Protection of
Children from Information Detrimental to Their Health and Development”
entered into force on 1 November 2012. The entire system that has become
active, declaratively to prevent on-line child pornography, is a system
able to monitor the Internet activities of millions of citizens and
ready to ban contents considered undesirable by the Russian government.

Complex internet-monitoring technologies will implement the “Single
Register” which will include requests of censorship coming from the
Agency for the Supervision of Information Technology, Communications and
Mass Media (The Roskomnadzor) which carries out orders of three
government agencies: the Interior Ministry, the Federal Antidrug Agency
and the Federal Service for the Supervision of Consumer Rights and
Public Welfare, and has the power to impose to the ISP to block the
indicted contents within 24 hours.

The Roskomnadzor system is apparently using DPI (deep packet inspection)
capable to analyse every single packet of the traffic, filtering certain
services or contents. “No Western democracy has yet implemented a
dragnet black-box DPI surveillance system due to the crushing effect it
would have on free speech and privacy” said Eric King, head of research
at Privacy International who added: “DPI allows the state to peer into
everyone’s internet traffic and read, copy or even modify e-mails and

Also, according to the bill proposed to amend the information law filed
on 21 September 2012, Internet users who will continue to use anonymizer
and filter- bypass tools (such as proxies or VPN) would face heavy fines
and even blocking of their Internet access.

Moreover, there is also an attempt of extending the interpretation of
the terms such as” “high treason” or “transmission of a state secret”.
In a new version of the Penal Code, the terms are meant to cover not
only a foreign organization or government, but also an “international
organization or its representatives.” The terms are also extended to
include all “financial aid, technical assistance, consultative or other
assistance” provided for “activities directed against the security of
the Russian Federation.”

“Taken as a whole, the latest legislative initiatives in the Duma give
all the appearance of a concerted attack on freedom to disseminate
information. In each of these bills, imprecise language and vague
definitions are far too open to interpretation. We call on members of
parliament to revise their proposals in light of the fundamental right
to freedom of information, which the Russian constitution – and
international conventions ratified by Russia – guarantee to all
citizens,” said Reporters Without Borders.

Another proposal is that of establishing criminality liability both for
receiving and transmitting “information constituting a state secret” and
people who have obtained secret information not only in the course
of their work but also “in the course of schooling or in other
capacities cited by law,” are also facing the risk of prosecution and

And to make the picture complete, a new bill proposed by the Duma meant
to “protect the sentiments of religious believers” calls for sentences
of up to three years in prison and fines that can be increased by 100
per cent for “public offences against or denigration of religious
dignitaries…or offences against citizens’ religious convictions and
sentiments.” The bill is entirely unnecessary having in view religious
affiliation is already protected by the present Penal Code and blasphemy
and the desecration of holy sites are already prohibited as forms of
“hooliganism” and “incitement of hate.”

The latest actions show a clear and worrying tendency of an increased
control and censorship of the online environment by the Russian authorities.

Internet access barred as wave of new legislation threatens freedom of
information (1.11.2012),43627.html

The entry into force of blacklist of Internet sites, new cascade of
liberty free law drafts (French version, 1.11.2012),43626.html

Russia enacts restrictive new cyber-law (1.11.2012)

Russia deploys a massive surveillance network system (4.11.2012)