Russia wants to ban all of its civil servants from using social networks at their workplace computers and other devices.

Russia Plans To Ban Social Networks at Russian State Agencies

Most social networks and special apps were created by foreign developers, which is why they are used against Russia’s interests, according to a member of the Liberal Democratic party who has prepared a bill in the State Duma.

MP Vadim Dengin, deputy chairman of the Lower House Committee for Information Policy, said that the draft bill was already in the works and the State Duma will review the bill that is aimed at ‘protection of Russia and its Internet space’ as soon as in September.

In order to strengthen security of domestic governmental networks of Russia, the bill would ban Russian civil servants from using social networks at their workplace computers and other devices.

“It is important to understand that most social networks and their software clients were created by foreign developers and therefore they can be used against Russia on the software level,” Dengin told the Russian daily Izvestia.

Dengin also emphasizes that it’s a waste of time for civil servants to communicate via social networks using their workplace computers. “To not waste time, as everybody has his own tasks and commitments, and for reasons of safety, the idea of blocking internal networks of such services is justified,” the lawmaker said. “Of course, it should not affect officials that use social networks to communicate with Russian people,” Dengin explains, adding that certain mechanisms of how it would work are currently being developed.

What do Russian experts say?

Russian experts have already supported Dengin’s idea and share his opinion about the ‘information war’ that the West is allegedly waging against Russia. Russian IT experts, for their part, are on the same page that social networks can be used by ‘bad guys’ in their own purposes.

“I cannot say that the issue must be regulated on the level of laws, rather than internal regulations and directives, but the idea is exceptionally right,” Lada Ponomareva, expert in the market of security systems, told Izvestia. “It should not be allowed to use social networks from workplace devices – computers, tablets, phones – on which the user has access to confidential information. The only exception can be for those who interacts with social networks as part of their service.”

Experts in the field also believe that the longer social networks are used on a device, the more the risk of the device to get hacked. “For civil servants it’s the same kind of threat as for all others. The bill is an option of solving the problem, but it would probably be wise to divide computers in state agencies according to the type of information they contain and process,” the expert explained.

Russia investigates Facebook’s gay emoji

Lower House deputy Ilya Kostunov doubts the reasonability of banning civil servants from using social networks at workplaces.

According to Kostunov, IT security can be guaranteed only in case of complete lack of access to the Internet, including from personal devices. Meanwhile, the lawmaker notes that the ban on using social networks will prompt civil servants to find another way to distract themselves from work. “They may start drinking coffee or go smoke outside,” Kostunov told Russian state-owned ITAR-TASS.

Meanwhile, Russia intends to investigate whether Facebook’s gay emoji are in direct violation of the country’s ‘homosexual propaganda’ laws that were adopted in 2013.

The proposal came from the senator of Bryansk region Mikhail Marchenko, who claims that he saw gay symbols on Facebook.

“These emoji of non-traditional sexual orientation are seen by all users of the social network, a large portion of whom are minors,” said Senator Mikhail Marchenko in a statement. “According to the law, homosexual propaganda is banned, which is why the problem must be eliminated as soon as possible.”

Rospotrebnadzor (Russia’s Federal Service for Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare) has not received an official appeal yet, but when it does, authorities will begin investigating.

Putin: we don’t plan new Internet restrictions

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in July that Russia does not plan any additional restrictions in the Internet, including social networks. The restrictions must be minimal and aimed at protecting the society, according to Putin.

“Certainly, the society has the rights and must protect itself. In many European countries, necessary actions are implemented, and I’m not talking about China – it’s a different subject as the Chinese government watches this sphere quite closely. However, in Germany and the U.K. pretty serious restrictions are implemented. We are not planning any other restrictions,” Putin said at the Territory of senses on Klyazma forum.

Putin also added that Russian supervisory authorities have four grounds to block a website: distribution of child pornography, propaganda of drugs, description of the ways to commit suicide and courts’ rulings on other categories.

Russians support Internet shutoffs

Most Russians are prepared to support shutoffs of the Internet during emergencies, according to the survey data by VCIOM (Russian Public Opinion Research Centre). The results of the survey show that such shutoffs are supported by 58 percent of Russians.

48 percent of Russians support such a measure only in case of a national threat, and 9 percent believe that the Internet must be shutoff during mass protests, while one percent of Russians named other reasons for putting restrictions on access to the Internet.

Meanwhile, 49 percent of Russians are in favor of censorship of the Internet. Among those who do not use the Internet, censorship is supported by 57 percent.

45 percent of Russians support filtration of foreign media, while 46 percent called for banning groups in social networks that advocate for anti-government protests. About the same percentage of Russians – 45 percent – support blocking videos of the group Pussy Riot.