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Russian Internet on the Way to Pyongyang

What it might look like when global social network and search giants have to haul their servers into Russia. Based on Ilya Repin's seminal "Volga Boatmen." Images remixed by Andrey Tselikov.

Global social network and search giants might have to haul their servers physically into Russia. Based on Ilya Repin's seminal “Volga Boatmen.” Images remixed by Andrey Tselikov.

Earlier this month RuNet Echo reported [Global Voices report] on a Moscow municipal deputy who wanted to require all major social networks to store Russian user data on Russian soil. It seems his request has been heard, or at the very least, that Russian legislators think alike. As part of a series of revisions to a bill that recently passed Russia's lower house of parliament, starting on August 1, 2014 all distributors of online content will be required to store user data for six months following its creation in Russia.

These regulations [ru] are part of a package of “anti-terrorist” laws which exert greater government control over the Russian Internet — the law requiring [Global Voices report] that bloggers with 3,000 unique visitors register as mass media is part of the same package. The reason for the 6-month storage clause is simple: to force foreign internet companies to obey the Russian government's requests for information. Under the new regulations every website has to comply with law enforcement requests to hand over any user information stored in accordance with the rule. Unless a website or platform has servers physically located in Russia, however, they aren't likely to comply with Russian data subpoenas — in theory, the policy would not affect giants like Facebook and Twitter.

Non-compliance carries administrative fines of 50,000 to 300,000 rubles for the first offense, for organizations and companies. While this might seem like small change (around 8,500 USD) to entities like Google, further noncompliance can be punished with website shutdowns and filtering.

President Putin approves of the new law — on April 24, he spoke [ru] at a public forum on the media, where he said that foreign data servers containing “Russian information” should be moved to Russia. This might be partly due to security fears. During the same press conference he famously noted that the web was developed by the CIA and is still controlled by the agency (perhaps meaning to cite DARPA's involvement with the creation of the Internet).

With the new law the outlook for the RuNet is especially dour, at least according to some Russian bloggers. The requirements are essentially impossible to comply with when considering the global nature of the Internet, writes [ru] Egor Kotkin. This is why he is afraid that its implementation may be just a preparatory step in closing off RuNet from the rest of the world – a new Iron Curtain of sorts. Russian Internet guru Anton Nosik is on the same page. In a recent interview with TV Rain he spoke about the harshness of the new laws:

В России устанавливается северо-корейская модель. Это не китайская, эта другая модель. Мы сейчас едем на полном ходу в Пхеньян, мы в Пекин не заезжаем по дороге.

Russia is implementing a North Korean model. This isn't a Chinese model, it's a different model. Right now we are full speed ahead to Pyongyang, and there is no stop in Beijing on the way. 

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