Andrew E. Kramer
Moscow: President Vladimir Putin appeared on Wednesday to throw his support behind a plan to isolate the Russian internet from the rest of the World Wide Web, but said the Russian government was “not even considering” censoring internet sites.
In a speech to the Russian National Security Council, Mr Putin said the plan was intended to build a backup system to keep websites in the Russian domains – those ending in .ru and .rf – online in a national emergency.
Mr Putin said other countries had taken to using the internet “for not only economic, but military and political goals” and said information security was a priority for the country.
The Russian news media have labelled the plan, some details of which were reported last month by Vedomosti, a Russian daily, a “kill switch” for the internet, or Russia’s answer to the Great Firewall put up by the Chinese.
“It’s important to secure the Russian segment of the internet,” Mr Putin said, according to a transcript posted on the Kremlin website. “We do not intend to limit access to the internet, to put it under total control, to nationalise the internet.
“We need to greatly improve the security of domestic communications networks and information resources, primarily those used by state structures,” Mr Putin added.
The Russian goals appear for now distinct from those of the Chinese, experts on internet policy say, and inspired partly by a revelation this northern summer in Wired magazine by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden, who lives in Moscow, that US government hackers inadvertently crashed the Syrian web in 2012.
Russia has recently promulgated policies to censor the internet through laws banning extremist content and requiring social networking and financial companies to base their data servers in Russia. The goal of the new system, however, appears not to block foreign content, but rather to keep Russia’s own news and information machine online in times of crisis.
Oleg Demidov, an authority on Russian internet policies at the PIR center in Moscow, said that Russia wanted to create a “double channel” for the internet. The backup channel would, of course, be under government control.
“In normal times, it would work like it does now,” he said of this Russian vision. “But in an emergency, the reserve system would come alive.”
Brazil President Dilma Rousseff proposed isolating the country from the US-centric internet last year, but efforts to force global internet companies to store data in the country, away from potential US spying, were met with opposition.
New York Times