In the report “Taking Control? Internet Censorship and Surveillance in Russia”, published today, RSF traces the development of internet censorship in Russia since the mass protests against Vladimir Putin in 2011/12. It documents the large number of laws adopted since then which are intended to ban certain content, increase monitoring of data traffic and make anonymous online communication impossible. It shows how critical editorial teams are put under pressure and how the authorities attempt to silence individual journalists and bloggers. It describes the Russian system of mass surveillance using SORM and provides information about new online media that report on societal ills against all odds.
RSF also analyses the relevance of international platforms such as Google, Twitter and Facebook for the freedom of expression in Russia and calls on them to take a clear position in the face of a government that systematically violates the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression. These companies must conduct human rights due diligence and commit to resisting any demands by states to censor the internet or to monitor content in a manner that infringes on human rights, the report says. This applies in particular to demands by the Russian authorities that certain content no longer be displayed or disseminated unless this has been ordered by an independent court of law or the content violates human rights.
“By implementing mass monitoring of the population without just cause, the Russian government is flagrantly violating human rights such as the right to privacy or freedom of the press”, said Christian Mihr, Executive Director of Reporters Without Borders Germany, in Berlin. “International platforms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter must take a clear stand in this situation. They must not work together with Russian authorities, store users’ personal data in Russia or block certain content, which is tantamount to doing the censors’ work for them. As the host of this year’s Internet Governance Forum, the German government should do everything in its power to counter Russia’s attempts to fragment the internet into more or less separate state-controlled networks.”
The report describes the Russian system of mass monitoring, documents the cases of individuals imprisoned because of their online activities and discusses to what extent Russia’s “sovereign internet law”, which entered into force on November 1st, can even be implemented with the technology currently available.
Russia is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.