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Russia Moves to Control Internet

Moscow, Russia —(Map)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law allowing Russia to separate its internet from the rest of the world. Russia says this is for protection. Others worry Russia is trying to control information.

Mr. Putin is serving his fourth term as president. As leader, he has worked to make sure that he has tight control over newspapers, TV, radio, and other sources of information inside of Russia. But the internet is a system that doesn’t stop at the edge of the country.

Ceremony signing the laws on admitting Crimea and Sevastopol to the Russian Federation
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law allowing Russia to separate its internet from the rest of the world. Russia says this is for protection. Others worry Russia is trying to control information. This picture shows Mr. Putin signing a different law in 2014.
(Source: Kremlin.ru [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Information on the internet can follow many different paths from its source to your computer. This means that even if you are looking at the website of a company close to you, some information may take unexpected paths. It may even travel through foreign countries. This makes the internet faster and makes it more likely that all of the information will get through.

But these constantly changing paths also make the internet hard to control. For example, Russia has been trying to shut down a message service called Telegram since last year. But every time the government blocks Telegram in some ways, the service has been able to get through in others.

Typical path across the Internet starting from a home device and finishing at a remote server.
Information on the internet can follow many different paths from its source to your computer, even if you are looking at the website of a company close to you. This makes the internet faster and makes it more likely that all of the information will get through.
(Source: Ferran [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)

In countries like China, though, the government has tight control over the internet. If the Chinese government wants to stop a website or a news story from coming into China, it can do so easily.

The law Mr. Putin signed will make Russia’s internet more like China’s. It will also give Russia greater protection against a digital attack.

Plenary meeting of the State Duma (2018-07-03)
The law Mr. Putin signed will make Russia’s internet more like China’s. It will also give Russia greater protection against a digital attack. The law was passed by Russia’s Parliament (shown above) in mid-April.
(Source: duma.gov.ru [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)

When you think of war, you probably don’t think of computers. But many experts believe that the next big war will be a “cyber war” – a war fought with computers over the internet.

Computers control many of the systems that make our everyday lives possible, including GPS, air traffic, hospitals, power stations, factories, and much more. Attacking with computers makes it easier to cause big problems for your enemy without putting your own soldiers in danger.

Control room of a moving grate incinerator for municipal solid waste.
Many experts believe that the next big war will be a “cyber war” – a war fought with computers over the internet. Computers control many of the systems that make our everyday lives possible, including GPS, air traffic, hospitals, power stations, factories, and much more. This picture shows the control room for a system that burns garbage.
(Source: Steag, Germany [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Russia has been using the internet to attack other countries for years. Russia’s attempt to interfere in the 2016 US election for president is one of the best known examples. Russia also used the Internet to try and change the results of the Brexit vote in the UK. Russia has done similar things in other countries.

Now Russia wants to protect itself against other countries trying to do the same thing to it. The new law requires big changes to the way Russia’s internet works. Russia wants to be able to quickly cut the connection with the outside world, and still have the Internet work inside the country. The changes could take years to complete.

Rally against the isolation of Runet (2019-03-10).
Many people worry that the new law gives the government complete control over what people in Russia can see and do on the Internet. In March, thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the planned changes to Russia’s internet. But their protests didn’t stop the new law.
(Source: DonSimon [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Many people worry that the new law gives the government complete control over what people in Russia can see and do on the Internet.

In March, thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the planned changes to Russia’s internet. But their protests didn’t stop the new law. The country will begin making changes in November.

Moscow, Russia


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