News / Europe

Russians Battle Over Internet Freedom

A Muscovite surfs a Web site at an Internet cafe in downtown Moscow (2006 file)
A Muscovite surfs a Web site at an Internet cafe in downtown Moscow (2006 file)
James Brooke

A massive hacker attack knocked Russia’s most popular opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, off the internet Friday. Earlier this week, three days of hacker attacks repeatedly knocked out LiveJournal, the nation’s main platform for blogs.

As Russia’s roughly 40 million internet users digested these attacks, the nation’s top communications security official proposed Friday to ban Skype, Hotmail, and Gmail as uncontrolled threats to Russian security. It is unclear if the official from Russia’s FSB, the successor agency to the Soviet KGB, will get his way.

With Russia’s internet users expanding by 10,000 people a day, security officials fret about the internet - a vast, uncontrolled cyberspace.

After the youth revolts spread through the Arab world, the FSB proposed that every Russian user of Facebook and other social networks be required to sign user contracts that included passport information and home addresses.

Andrei Soldatov, an author of a book on the FSB, explains how he views these moves toward internet controls:

"A direct consequence of the events in the Middle East and North Africa, in Tunisia, in Egypt," he said. "Because for many experts and for many politicians, it seems that social networks played a crucial role."

Russia is now in an election year. Parliamentary elections are in December. Presidential elections are in March. The ruling United Russia party won regional elections last month, but with generally reduced showings.

Soldatov sees this week’s hacker attacks as a practice for serious shutdowns later this year, when the campaigning and the vote counting gets hot.

"For me it seems like a test of the technology - how to shut down such an important service," he said.

LiveJournal in Russia hosts almost five million bloggers and receives visits from 13 million users a month.

Vladimir Ryzhkov, a former parliamentarian and active LiveJournal blogger, said the Kremlin is getting nervous about Russia’s largely uncontrolled blogging space.

Next week, Ryzhkov plans to hold an anti-corruption rally in central Moscow. In March, his opposition colleagues started to use LiveJournal to distribute their new pamphlet entitled, Putin = Corruption.

The attacks first attacked the LiveJournal blog of Alexei Navalny, widely considered to be Russia’s leading anti-corruption crusader. Navalny routinely calls Russia’s ruling United Russia party, the party of thieves and swindlers.  After his blog was attacked, he called the attacks a counter-propaganda campaign.

But it soon became apparent that the attackers were aiming at LiveJournal itself.

Ilya Dronov, development manager for the site, the seventh most popular in Russia, wrote on his blog: "Somebody really wants LiveJournal to cease to exist."

Ryzhkov, the opposition leader, pointed his finger at the FSB.  He charges that the FSB has a secret unit with up to 300 technicians dedicated to monitoring and controlling the internet.

In response, Gleb Pavlovsky, pro-Kremlin political analyst, says the opposition is being excessively nervous. He dismissed internet users as young, politically apathetic, and non voters.

The most prominent victim of the LiveJournal shutdowns was Dmitry Medvedev. Russia’s internet savvy President maintains a blog on Live Journal. He is often photographed using an I-pad.

When service was restored Thursday night to LiveJournal, he blogged: "As an active LiveJournal user, I consider these actions outrageous and illegitimate. What happened should be investigated both by the LiveJournal administration and by law enforcement agencies."

Comments posted on the blog back his call for a police crackdown on the hackers.

But Ryzhkov, the opposition leader, is skeptical. He said President Medvedev talks a lot about freedom of speech and internet, but has no control over Russia’s security services. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a former KGB colonel, is widely seen as ultimately in charge of what are called here the ‘power forces.'

So it seems that a classic Russian battle is shaping up between freedom and control. Only this time, the battle being waged is about cyberspace.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid