Control by infrastructure: Political ambitions meet technical implementations in RuNet
Discourse about sovereignty and Internet in Russia is predominantly focused on control of harmful content and information and its negative influence on the political regime and society. However, content control is not the only way to exercise sovereignty over digital media and the Web. Recently, the Russian government started to realize that without controlling Internet infrastructure, most strategies to filter and block Web sites and services are wasted. In the past five to seven years, Russia invested a lot of efforts in the development and adoption of new laws and regulations that deal with RuNet infrastructure, where the aim of centralized Internet traffic control was a real novelty, albeit a very ambitious political goal. This article tries to address the pitfalls of the control-by-infrastructure endeavor of the Russian government through four emblematic cases: the implementation of the “Revizor” system to control ISPs’ compliance to filter Internet resources from the blacklist; the battle to block Telegram messenger in Russia; the implementation of law FZ-90 (popularly referred to as the law “on Sovereign RuNet”); and finally, the ongoing experiment with free access to ‘socially significant Web sites’, which may have serious consequences in the future if used as a ‘white list’ of permitted Web resources. These four cases were chosen because they are deeply interconnected and show how the government has been gradually implementing infrastructure control in connection to content control.
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