See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

This Russian Lawmaker Thinks the US Can Take Russia Off The Internet

Are Russian fears that the US can take the country offline unfounded? Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Are Russian fears that the US can take the country offline unfounded? Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

A deputy in the Russian parliament thinks the United States might cut off Russia's Internet and suggests Russians take measures to get ready for the information blackout.

Ilya Kostunov, the deputy in question, believes the US might want to undermine Russia's Internet access in order to destabilize the economy and to agitate the social and political sentiment in the country. He has also asked the Ministry of Communications to prepare a contingency “civil defence plan” in case the RuNet goes dark, according to TJournal.

Всё чаще из стран блока НАТО раздаются угрозы уничтожить экономику России. […] Учитывая, что за адресацию в интернете отвечает подконтрольная США ICANN, отключение интернета действительно возможно. Американцы могут отключить интернет, например, перед выборами и обвинить в этом российские власти.

More and more often we hear threats from NATO countries to destroy Russia's economy. […] Since the routing on the Internet is controlled by ICANN, which is controlled by the US, switching off the Internet is actually possible. The Americans can switch off the Internet before elections, for instance, and blame Russian authorities for this.

It's worth noting that in March 2014 the US announced its intent to withdraw from its managing role in ICANN, the non-profit managing IP addresses and domains (stewardship of the IANA functions could pass on to the “global multistakeholder community” when the US contract with ICANN expires in September 2015), so Kostunov's claims are somewhat threadbare in this regard. But he is not to be deterred, as he has suggested Russia needs a more autonomous Internet that could function independently of the rest of the world. This, Kostunov says, requires a set of software and technology solutions. One solution he offers is a special USB flash drive which “every Russian should have,” containing an ‘alternative routing system’ which could be launched in case of a Western-masterminded Internet blackout. The deputy did not elaborate on the details of this ‘alternative’ system or on what technologies could help make this possible.

The RuNet users reacted to the alarmist statement with a healthy dose of skepticism. Twitter user JosefK was full of scorn for Kostunov's suggestions:

@tjournalru Every Russian citizen should have a special USB flash drive and a tin foil hat to boot.

The fear mongering around Internet cut-offs is the latest example in Russia's ongoing quest for control over Internet access and user data. Earlier this week the Russian parliament moved to push the personal data storage law to an earlier start. The law, which obliges all online services with Russian users to store the users’ data on servers within Russia, will now come into power in January 2015, more that a year and a half ahead of the previously planned September 2016 date. Yevgeny Fyodorov, one of the deputies who lobbied for the earlier date, believes that Western sanctions endanger the RuNet users, and that the law will protect them.

Мы понимаем, что развязывание оголтелой информационной атаки идет по разным направлениям, под угрозой находятся и личные данные наших граждан. […] Чтобы избежать разного рода провокаций и исключить эскалацию информационной войны было принято коллективное решение, что можно ускорить введение в действие закона.

We understand that a ruthless information attack is being unleashed in many directions, and the personal data of our citizens is under threat. […] In order to avoid various provocations and to rule out an escalation of the information war, we've made a collective decision to speed up the law's coming into power.

Deputies are also concerned about Western Internet companies colluding with other states. Just this week, they accused Google of being anti-Russian and spying for Ukraine, after the Ukrainian state security service (SBU) announced it was cooperating with Google and YouTube in particular to thwart Russian efforts to manipulate and remove content online. Deputy Yevgeny Fyodorov believes the deal will allow Google to supply Ukraine with information about Russian Internet users, and has asked Russian authorities to investigate the matter, according to an Izvestia report.

As Russia becomes increasingly paranoid about threats to its information security, it will likely continue the trend towards the fragmentation of the global Internet, already evident in many other countries around the world. The security, however elusive, might come at the cost of free expression and unfettered access to the wealth of the world's information and communication resources, which many Russians have grown to enjoy.

  • Clarification

    A clarification: it is not accurate to say that “in March 2014 the US withdrew from its managing role in ICANN.” Actually, the announcement from the US Government was of its its *intent* to transition stewardship of the IANA functions to the “global multistakeholder community” after the current contract with ICANN expires in September 2015 (if an acceptable proposal is produced). Its agreement with ICANN through the Affirmation of Commitments would remain.

    http://www.ntia.doc.gov/other-publication/2014/iana-functions-and-related-root-zone-management-transition-questions-and-answ

  • MrRainbowBotox

    Agree with the suggestion of “tin foil hats” for every Russian – will fit them perfectly!!

  • Superseeker

    What this will lead to is a kind of “Korean” dictatorship and sensorship in Russia, clearly all those servers will be under government control, watched and monitored. Russia will become a police state. Most likely blocking western internet servers under the disguise of any various excuse they can concoct. VK, Russia’s Facebook, already has this kind of sensorship going on, where paid watchdogs with fake or real profiles find and seek out any negative posts towards Russian politics or motives, and they simply click on “report” or block or what have you, and the next thing is that user finds their profile limited or turned off. This is just the next step in controls of freedoms. The Kremlin already controls all media content in Russia, and sadly most Russian people are believing and buying all the lies and propaganda.

    • Kevin Schmidt

      They learned it from the US Government.

  • Kevin Schmidt

    It’s not paranoia when it’s true.

  • Janet Innes-Kirkwood

    Well this is the beginning of the disintegration and Balkanization of the Internet if we are not careful because in fact we see how the NSA turned off Syria and spied an every call and communication in other nations affording no foreigners any rights, and we know that other nations including Russia may bail and many others may look at the evidence and choose to do the same and that will be a shame. That is the downside of invading privacy and weaponizing the Internet.

  • Chris Herz

    Really, this Internet thing is quite out of control. Great gaping holes are being driven in our US propaganda, formerly the best of the best. I suggest giving the whole business to Comcast.

  • Голос Правды!!!

    Not only the Internet to disconnect, forbid any communication with the world, beginning from overland sea and air space!!! I will disseminate to exclude from all of World events such as the Eurovision, carrying out the Olympic Games….. And other actions!!!! To fence Russia with a barbed wire from all directions it borders!!! And whom from it not to let out!!!

  • ToyotaBedZRock

    The internet is vulnerable, to idiots who administer the BGP tables who now and then screw up. There is basically no security on this most important system.

  • Pingback: This Russian Lawmaker Thinks the US Can Take Russia Off The Internet | International Political Forum()

  • Pingback: How Not to Understand the Kremlin’s Internet ‘Kill Switch’ · Global Voices()

Our work building bridges across cultures, languages and perspectives is more urgent than ever before.

Learn more about Global Voices »

Donate now

Close