The true purpose of Russia’s Internet kill-switch
The Kremlin may employ an Internet kill-switch to protect Russia from threats both foreign and domestic. Russian officials told the media last week that they were exploring ways that they could protect the Russian Internet from threats to national security if it became necessary. Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously referred to the Internet as a "CIA special project," reported Reuters.
Suppression of Internet freedom
Some believe that the Kremlin may not be as interested in protecting their Internet from the West as they are in silencing dissident voices within Russia. Representative on Freedom of the Media with the Organization for Security and Cooperation, Dunja Mijatovic, agrees that there is a need to protect Russian society – citing trafficking, child abuse and terrorism as major threats – however, she also questions the government's true intentions.
"If you look at the trend, and in which direction Russia is going as a country in relation to freedom of expression and freedom of the media, then of course … the small red flag that I'm raising all the time is immediately raised," said Mijatovic, reported Reuters.
The Kremlin did not admit to trying to silence critical voices in the country, arguing that plans to isolate the Russian Internet are only for the purpose of protecting national security. If the Kremlin is worried that the West will use the Internet to orchestrate a rebellion of sorts in the country, then this is clearly sign that relations have deteriorated to cold-war levels.
Russian newspaper Vedomosti reported that the Kremlin is interested in defending their "digital sovereignty." According to the newspaper's anonymous sources, the government has ordered the installation of technology that would act as a kill-switch for foreign IP addresses – in the case that the Internet is used from overseas to instigate domestic protest or affect the military, according to Globalvoicesonline.com
East – West relations currently at a low point
Reporter at Vedomosti, Anastasia Golitsyna, discussed how the Kremlin feared American technology. She cited a case last month where 12 planes flying over Moscow suddenly reported GPS malfunction. There were no injuries or accidents, but suspicion was aroused as to whether Washington was using their space-based positioning system, GPS, to send Russia a clear message: that U.S. innovation dominates global technology.
Whether the Kremlin's reaction of creating an Internet kill-switch is mainly fueled by fear of foreign influences destabilizing the country, or motivated by a desire to control the dissemination and sharing of information locally, is something that remains to be seen. While relations between the U.S and Russia have been strained recently after what has transpired in Ukraine, and governments are presently weary of one another, this could simply be a case of the Russian government suppressing internet freedom.
"In most of the situations that we looked into, these issues that are in relation to Internet freedom, it is to suppress and to restrict critical voices," said Mijatovic, reported Reuters..