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Facebook, Twitter and Google: the mechanics of disconnecting

Article by: Anton Nosik, Internet activist
Source: Echo Moskvi
Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina

The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media began preparations to block Facebook, Twitter and Google servers in Russia.

The plan initially was that they would be blocked in the second half of 2016, but this week the members of the State Duma quickly changed their minds and passed amendments, according to which the term for the suspension is now January 1, 2015. However, the Federal Service hastens to create the preconditions even faster.

The technology of switching off includes two steps. First, the foreign services are posted with an initially unachievable task of transferring all user data to FSB-controlled spaces. And then they are switched off for not meeting this demand. To be exact, they disconnect us from them.

Having registered with the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media as an organizer of information distribution, such a website is to ‘store information on the territory of the Russian Federation regarding the acceptance, transmission, delivery and (or) processing of voice information, written text, images, audio or other electronic messages of Internet users’ for 6 month. Failure to meet this demand merits a fine: up to 500 thousand rubles for legal entities, communication experts explain.

It may seem to you that Izvestiya journalists have forgone an important nuance: whose data in particular are subject to storage on Russian territory. Is it only Russian citizens, Russian-speaking Internet users in the entire world, or persons with any citizenship that are on Russian territory at the moment of data transmission?

In reality, Izvesiya journalists are not to blame. Of course, they could have posed this interesting question to a Federal Service official and maybe even asked it, however they were not allowed to print the response. The harsh truth is that the answer is not written out in Federal Law 97 in any way. There was no attempt to limit the jurisdiction of Duma’s law and the legitimate sphere of interest of the Russian FSB, neither according to citizenship criteria, nor language or geography. If we are to read the law as it was written and passed, it speaks of any transmission of data: American and European, Japanese and Canadian, in Israel and New Zealand, without any limitations. And the definition of the blog is also very generous there. I will cite it, lest you don’t believe me:

The owner of a website and (or) a webpage on the Internet, which posts generally available information and a click rate of over three thousand users per day (further: blogger), when posting and using the given information, in particular, when said information is posted on the given website or webpage by other Internet users, is obliged to ensure the adherence to Russian legislation. 

It is quite clear here that there are no limitations. Not in terms of citizenship, language or geography. If you have three thousand unique users a day, you are on the list, and please accord with it. Even if your language is Indonesian, and your target audience is on the island of Java. Either you acknowledge the jurisdiction of a sheep herd, or we block you. This is what the law says.

Of course, nobody is going to stick to the law in its current shape. This was not the initial task. Ten days before the law became effective, Maksim Ksenzov from the Federal Service explained to everyone that his service would not execute any of the points of the law except for selective political censorship.

We did not and do not pose the goal of organizing a census of all popular Russian-language Internet users. It is a pointless task, and this is not the point of the law… The blog registry defined by the law, which the Federal Service will start on August 1, is created not for statistic calculations… we do not see a serious necessity in a preliminary evaluation of the number of users who are potentially subject to this law; statistics are formed during legislation execution and will be dynamic.

Dynamics are probably the main feature of the Russian legislation this season. The ‘movers’ will come for those who have fingers pointed at them. But the primary task is to block Facebook, Twitter and Google services in Russia. The Duma established January 1 as the end date, however the Federal Service hastens to accomplish their task earlier.

I don’t know why such haste is necessary. In any case, we are so far talking about disconnection technologies that can easily by combatted using proxies and VPN.

Source: Echo Moskvi
Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
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