Attempts by the Russian government to censor the internet’s front page, Google, have escalated since 2016, culminating in 2018 in the wake of stricter internet laws being implemented and in 2020/2021 following the poisoning of opposition politician Alexei Navalny. Russian government activists.
In the first half of 2021, the latest version available from Google’s Transparency Report website, Russia made nearly 19,000 requests for more than 200,000 items to be removed from Google Search, Google News, the Google Play Store and YouTube, among others. Depending on country laws, governments will communicate with Google regarding various items that they believe the company should not host or make visible. Reasons include copyright infringement, defamation, fraud, hate speech, or content deemed obscene. However, the specific offenses that fall under these categories again vary by state legislation. A court order under the law of a particular country is another way for governments to contact Google to remove content.
In the case of Russia, the Information and Communications Authority submitted the vast majority of requests to Google, illustrating the organized nature of Russia’s attempt to clean up content it deems inappropriate on the Internet. Recently, 96% of requests from the Russian government body were responded to.
The fact that Russia is the country with the highest number of Google content removal requests by far shows that the country’s government has yet to gain a full understanding of internet censorship but may be trying to go down this path. Regulations that already restrict the Internet more stringently, for example China or Iran, do not rank highly in Google removal requests because they use centralized online control mechanisms that enable them to influence the Internet in their countries to a high degree. In China, one important mechanism is often called the Great Firewall, but countries like Iran or North Korea also have so-called internet gateways, or choke points, that collect all incoming and outgoing internet traffic from the country, making them easier to control. Just last week, an Iranian data center suspected of hosting a throttling point caught fire, causing widespread internet outages. Cambodia and Thailand are recently considering introducing this draconian measure of internet control.
Decentralized Internet in Russia?
On the other hand, Russia has been described as a country with a decentralized Internet infrastructure, sharing many connections with neighboring countries, which makes controlling the Internet difficult. In a 2018 study, the Russian internet was identified as having lower throttling capabilities than those of the United States, Germany or the United Kingdom. This may be due to the country’s earlier adoption of the World Wide Web compared to other restrictive countries such as China, India or Egypt, which built much of their infrastructure with Web 2.0 censorship already in mind.
However, Russia is progressing a path towards increasing internet censorship that started before and has only intensified since the country’s invasion of Ukraine. After entering 2018 with Google on removing and registering content with the authorities that sent CEO Sundar Pichai to the House Judiciary Committee, 2019 saw the passage of more far-reaching electronic legislation, including so-called sovereign internet laws aimed at increasing the centralization of the Russian language. As well as the implementation of deep packet inspection technology. DPI allows the interception of encrypted messages based on the information of the sender and receiver.
Finally, the country was planning to build its own national DNS, a guide to how computers find websites based on their names. It will enable the user to find Russian domains even if they are excluded from the central global DNS. Ukraine requested this removal but it was rejected by the international coordinating body ICANN.
Russia also blocked access to several news and social media providers in retaliation against the United States and Europe, for example YouTube, Facebook and Twitter as well as the BBC, DW and Radio Free Europe websites. Other Western online services have pulled their business out of the country on their own, among them Paypal, Booking.com, Netflix and Spotify.
painted it additional