Troubling developments on the Russian Internet

Whatever other political rights may have been curtailed in Russia, the country’s Internet culture has been pretty free of censorship, filtering, and state interference compared with, say, China. But this week has brought a host of disturbing news. First there was the sophisticated DDOS attack on LiveJournal, which a number of Russian bloggers believe may ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images

Whatever other political rights may have been curtailed in Russia, the country's Internet culture has been pretty free of censorship, filtering, and state interference compared with, say, China. But this week has brought a host of disturbing news. First there was the sophisticated DDOS attack on LiveJournal, which a number of Russian bloggers believe may have been a case of the Kremlin testing out its capabilities ahead of the upcoming election season. Then yesterday, hackers took down the site of the independent and often critical newspaper Novaya Gazeta

The government has distanced itself from these attacks. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who maintains his own LiveJournal blog, called the attack on the site "revolting and illegal."

But now, Russia's security services are calling for access to a number of popular online social networking and communications services:

Whatever other political rights may have been curtailed in Russia, the country’s Internet culture has been pretty free of censorship, filtering, and state interference compared with, say, China. But this week has brought a host of disturbing news. First there was the sophisticated DDOS attack on LiveJournal, which a number of Russian bloggers believe may have been a case of the Kremlin testing out its capabilities ahead of the upcoming election season. Then yesterday, hackers took down the site of the independent and often critical newspaper Novaya Gazeta

The government has distanced itself from these attacks. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who maintains his own LiveJournal blog, called the attack on the site "revolting and illegal."

But now, Russia’s security services are calling for access to a number of popular online social networking and communications services:

Russia’s domestic security service called for access to encrypted communication providers like Gmail, Hotmail and Skype on Friday, saying the uncontrolled use of such services could threaten national security.

The proposal by the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB secret police raised concerns some senior Russian officials would like to limit Internet access to stave off any potential protests ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

"Different software is being distributed allowing the encryption of traffic: that is services including Gmail, Hotmail and Skype," Alexander Andreyechkin, the head of the Federal Security Service’s special communications center, was quoted as saying by state RIA news agency.

"The uncontrolled use of these services could lead to a large-scale threat to Russian security," RIA quoted Andreyechkin as telling a Russian government commission on technology.

In the wake of Internet inspired protests in the Arab world, are the gloves coming off?

Hat tip: Evgeny Morozov

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

Tag: Russia

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