Putin Orders New System To Ban ‘Toxic’ Internet Content

Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken time away from his role in the Ukraine crisis and turned his attention instead to unwanted Internet content.

Reuters reported that the Russian President has ordered his administration to consider an apparent new system to ban ‘toxic’ internet content, although exact details were not released.

Last week President Putin had asked Russian officials to reach a consensus about cryptocurrencies and crypto mining. It comes after Russia’s central bank proposed completely banning the use and mining of cryptocurrencies, but local politicians are reportedly not in favour of that approach.

Online content

But online content, especially if it is hosted on foreign (mostly American) tech platforms, has long been a Russian bug bear.

Last month Russia’s state communications regulator Roskomnadzor filed legal cases against both Google and Meta over their respective failures to remove “banned content” from their platforms.

Roskomnadzor also threatened Google with a slowdown of its services in Russia, over allegations that it had failed to delete what Russia calls ‘unlawful content.’

And since March last year, the Russian government has used deep-packet inspection (DPI) technology to slowdown users’ access to Twitter.

Russia then extended this Twitter slowdown.

The regulator has even threatened to use Russian bailiffs to enforce the collection of 26 million roubles ($361,400) in fines imposed on Facebook for failing to delete content that Russia deems illegal.

And last September Russia threatened to block YouTube in the country, after Google’s streaming division deleted the German-language channels of state-backed broadcaster RT (formerly Russia Today).

New System

Against this backdrop comes Reuters reporting that Russia’s President is considering a new content management system.

This was revealed in a list of presidential orders on the Kremlin website, and was described as a “self-regulated register of toxic content” which would be used “to protect minors.”

The Kremlin would review it by 1 June.

Putin has previously hinted at plans for a more sweeping crackdown on online content, blaming the internet for corrupting youth and for fuelling street protests by political opponents branded extremists by the authorities.

Russia for example has waged an online war against jailed Kremlin critic and opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who in August 2020 survived an assassination attempt when he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.

Navalny sought treatment in Germany and when he returned to Russia in January 2021 he was jailed over accusations of violating parole conditions whilst in hospital for treatment, and was sentenced to two and half years in a corrective labour colony.

Ahead of last September’s parliamentary elections, Google and Apple caved into Russian pressure to remove Navalny’s anti-government tactical voting app from their respective app stores.

Human rights?

Last month in December, Putin signalled support for a proposal from a member of his human rights council for a new voluntary mechanism to ban toxic content, which Russian online platforms would agree to in return for being treated preferably to foreign platforms.

Russia it should be remembered has previously passed a number of restrictive laws governing the online world, not least of which was its so called ‘Sovereign Internet’ law that enables Russia to be cut off from the global Internet.

Russia has also demanded that 13 foreign and mostly US technology companies be officially represented on Russian soil by the end of 2021 or face possible restrictions or outright bans.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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