Conclusions after the Kazakh riot: will the Russian authorities crack down on the Internet

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Conclusions after the Kazakh riot: will the Russian authorities crack down on the Internet
Conclusions after the Kazakh riot: will the Russian authorities crack down on the Internet
13 January, 14:52Photo: 1MI
At the CSTO summit, Vladimir Putin said that the countries of the organization would not allow the situation to be rocked and would not allow scenarios of color revolutions. Many saw this as a new stage of “tightening the nuts”. The only question is, with what force and speed this will happen.

Victoria Pavlova

After the peacekeepers entered Kazakhstan, an extraordinary CSTO summit was convened to sum up the interim results of the settlement of the internal conflict. Not only Kassym-Jomart Tokayev presented his program, but also Vladimir Putin. At the same time, the Russian president said that recruitment into terrorist cells is carried out through social networks. The press secretary of the President Dmitry Peskov continued this series, saying that " Social networks bring not only good, but also evil, which must be stopped." Soon, the head of the Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, joined with the words that two-thirds of those accused of massacres in educational institutions studied materials about attacks on the Internet, and some were themselves administrators of such groups. The rhetoric is obvious: the Internet and social networks are to blame for everything. It is not new. People began to pay attention to social networks since the Bolotnaya Square in 2011, and now this trend is gaining momentum. So in Belarus, administrators of various protest publics ended up in the dock. Does this mean that soon Internet resources will face even stricter restrictions?

Technological progress for new locks

At the end of last year, the Tagansky Court of Moscow has already issued a fine for Meta (Facebook and Instagram) for 1.99 billion rubles, and Google - for 7.2 billion rubles. In both cases, the reason was the failure to delete the prohibited information. Well, is it time to remember the skills of connecting VPN, proxy servers and other methods of bypassing blocking obtained after trying to block Telegram?

The head of the RosKomSvoboda organization, Artem Kozlyuk, notes that at the moment Russia has powers, technical capabilities, and experience in blocking in a critical situation.

- It is clear that there will be some comprehensively adopted decisions, and they are probably already prepared in advance. In a number of regions they have already been worked out, as, for example, in Ingushetia. Several years ago there were protests against the annexation of part of the territory to Chechnya, people took to the streets, and then they first jammed the mobile Internet, and then they got to the wired Internet. Communication was jammed when people went out to rallies. After that, the law on the sovereign Runet began to work more actively, and within its framework, the powers to implement shutdown , disconnect the Internet, were transferred to Roskomnadzor. Now the supervisory agency and its subordinate units have the right to give instructions to telecom operators, slow down traffic, restrict, slow down, isolate some signatures from this traffic in order to hinder the work of, for example, YouTube , VPN , social networks. The equipment, which has now begun to be actively sold on the side of the telecom operator, has been well pumped over several years. We have already seen such experiments, for example, last year, when we slowed down Twitter and restricted sites under the new filtering law. Such measures were already more effective.

Putting pressure on the network is not profitable

However, political scientists agree that taking tough measures and blocking network resources forever is not beneficial to the authorities themselves. But strengthening the same Russian Guard is a completely different matter. Street protests are likely to be brutally suppressed. Political analyst Ilya Grashchenkov points out that blocking social networks for the authorities is like being shot in the leg. After all, social networks are a very convenient tool for controlling people:

- I do not think that the state itself is interested in tightening the screws on social networks. Firstly, the special services have adapted and feel very comfortable in the existing line of social networks, including Facebook, Instagram and, to a lesser extent, Twitter. Facebook is, in principle, a small social network for the Moscow intelligentsia, and Instagram has no analogues, so tightening the screws is like shooting yourself in the foot. If anything, the security forces will cope with truncheons. After all, social media is a soft power tool. To stop them means to lose control over them. The most radical citizens will go to the darknet, and you will never be caught there.

Karen Ghazaryan , an analyst with the Russian Association for Electronic Communications, notes that even the introduction of new bills on toughening Internet regulation to the State Duma for consideration will not fundamentally change anything:

- We have already adopted everything that is possible on this topic (Internet regulation). Because we still have some kind of lawmaking, some deputy will introduce something, a bill on increasing some fines, and so on, in fact, nothing will change, because half of these laws are fine for themselves and do not work until the appropriate signal is given from above. All such laws have selective enforcement, have always been and remain. After all, we have fines for social networks, there are responsibilities for content moderation, the ability to turn off the Internet in emergency situations is there. They may have forgotten about it themselves and may accept it, but in essence there is no operational need for this.

Political scientist Mikhail Vinogradov claims that the experience of Kazakhstan has shown the opposite - how not to block the Internet:

- The events in Kazakhstan have just reduced the viability of this rhetoric (since the main panic and chaos occurred just at the time of the Internet shutdown - people were doomed to go out into the streets to find out news and information about the fate of loved ones). Therefore, an emotional argument in favor of the continuation of last year's radical trend is possible, but the situation in Kazakhstan does not bring any kind of turning point into the events.

Ilya Grashchenkov also recalls that social networks not only help to control people, but at the same time are an instrument of state influence. It is more profitable for the state to “learn how to cook them” than to block:

- Twitter is our main platform for reaching foreign audiences. Instagram , as we know, is the favorite network of regional governors and Ramzan Kadyrov in the first place. The Russian state now rules through social media. Many things do not exist in reality, but exist only in the media. Social networks are the main instrument of the state through which they try to prove something, explain the general point of view. There is a TV for 90% of the population, and for 10% - social networks. Blocking will lead to scattered communication channels. Only parity solutions with short-term closure are possible.

More restrictions, more protests

Artyom Kozlyuk warns that excessive enthusiasm for tightening the screws in the network itself can provoke strong discontent and even protests:

- The departure or blocking of any large company, such as Google and, to a lesser extent, Facebook (there is a separate issue with Wotsap and Instagram, which belong to Facebook) can provoke a wave of discontent among opinion leaders not only in some political sphere, but in anyone with a multi-million dollar audience. And then it can provoke some kind of massive discontent, which will, among other things, be fueled by LOMs or top bloggers. If there are attempts in Russia to terminate some Google services, Internet business will suffer, and government agencies themselves will suffer, because a lot of things are tied to Western services. Google is not just an access to information, a search engine, it is both servers and various services.

Political analyst Alexander Kynev argues that tightening the screws offline will not give the desired result either:

- There will certainly be demonstrative criminal cases on segments of society. However, this is a dead-end strategy. The only real mechanism is the diversification of the opposition so that people have a choice of whom to support. This will weaken the individual parts of the opposition and, at the same time, complicate coordination between them. The intensification of the cleansing operations only leads to the concentration of the protest around the remaining ones.

It turns out that cardinally blocking social networks and Internet resources is unprofitable, although there are already plenty of formal reasons for this. World IT giants are in no hurry to fulfill the requirements to "land" in Russia and open official representative offices, and there are few people willing to pay multibillion-dollar fines. In the past, the tactic of ignoring the demands of the Russian authorities worked well. Telegram has made a name for itself. Karen Ghazaryan points out that large companies can delay payment of the fine as much as they want:

- If we are talking about turnover fines, then until September, until they figure out thoroughly the implementation of this law, nothing will happen. You can delay payment for a very long time. They are now delaying payment, and can continue to do so. Not all foreign resources are equal to each other, it is obvious that the possible blocking of Google and Facebook are different things, and secondly, when you have 50 million people using some kind of WhatsApp, explain to these 50 million that they should no longer use it or they have to learn how to use a VPN - this is a rather specific proposal on the part of the authorities. It would be interesting to see this.

Ilya Grashchenkov is sure that everyone will stay with their own people:

- Foreign companies will show that they are slowly moving, adjusting to Russian requirements, they will gradually remove content. This is what the authorities need: they want to be respected by their standards. But, of course, no one will pay billions in fines. Everything will be the same: Roskomnadzor will wage a small but invincible war, and everyone will be happy. The same Kazakh case will not particularly affect here.

But the federal budget expenditures under the item "National Security" in 2022-2024 should amount to 8.7 trillion rubles. And directly in 2022, expenses will grow by 412.9 billion rubles and will reach 2.82 trillion rubles. The Rosgvardia, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the courts will not be deprived of finances, there will be enough incentives for shock work for everyone. There will be no shortage of batons, stun guns and helmets with visors without an anti-fog coating. The state, however, is likely to increase the number of requirements for the removal of unwanted content within the framework of Roskomnadzor's sluggish war, in the hope that at least some of them will be satisfied by foreign companies. But there is good news: no one will interfere with watching cats and memes on "fish" in social networks, and at the same time it will be possible to earn extra money on shares of domestic IT companies during the aggravation of Roskomnadzor's confrontation with foreign giants.

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