Russia’s Putin Uses Tools of Threat and Intimidation

Russia’s Putin Uses Tools of Threat and Intimidation
<a href="">WikiImages</a> / Pixabay

For international companies operating in Russia, September has become a new era of Moscow’s restrictions.

The Russian law now forces tech companies to use local servers to process their Russian users’ personal data. This is one of two dozen draconian regulations that have strengthened the Kremlin’s control over the Internet since Russian President Vladimir Putin was reelected in 2012.

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The Kremlin is beefing up censorship on the Internet, using it to track down opposition activists, and the regulation to store personal data on servers within the country makes it easier for the government to access this data.

It is important to note that Google, Facebook and Twitter fit under the strict regulation. Representatives of the three giant companies hold private meetings with the Russian government to reach an agreement on the matter, according to Bloomberg.

It is yet too early to tell whether either of the companies will comply with the regulation, with Facebook refusing to comment.

Temporarily shutting down Wikipedia two weeks ago was just another attempt to ban a popular Western web resource on the Russian territory. Before Wikipedia, the Putin’s regime had banned Reddit and Lurkmore, a Russian satirical website.

Russia bans PornHub, protects erasing browsing history                                      

It was reported just today that the Russian-language segment of PornHub will be banned by Russia’s watchdog – Roskomnadzor – on the territory of the Russian Federation.

According to the ruling of a Russian court, PornHub falls within the scope of the law protecting minors from information that could potentially harm their health and development. Thus, the content of the porn website is banned across the country.

Apart from PornHub, a list of websites to be banned in Russia included a dozen more pornographic internet resources.

Apparently, the Russian government is fighting for the right to be forgotten for their citizens. A law that comes into power from January 1, 2016, allows to prosecute search engines such as Google and Yandex for storing information that Internet users chose to erase. In case the Russian government finds out that a search engine possesses such information, it faces a fine of 3 million rubles (about $45,000).

However, with PornHub banned in Russia, there is one less reason for users to erase browsing history.

Putin uses the tools of threat and intimidation

An authoritarian, dictatorship-inclined regime in Russia is not news. The Putin’s government has been tightening its fist on the Internet for a while now.

And even though everybody – the United States, the European Union and Russian citizens – know about Russia’s tendency to be in complete control of the Internet, fighting Putin’s online regime has proven to be a futile task, according to two veteran Russian journalists.

Examining Russia’s policies and regulation on the Internet for decades, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan shed the light on ways the Kremlin implements to monitor the Internet and keep Russian Internet users obeying.

“Fear—and self-censorship caused by fear—were for centuries essential to the system of government in Russia, from imperial times through the Soviet period and into the president. The leaders often dealt in the currency of threats and intimidation,” the two journalists wrote in their ‘The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and The New Online Revolutionaries’.

The authors note that the Russian government doesn’t even have to be as “repressive or technically sophisticated” as China, while Putin doesn’t need to carry out mass repressions against journalists or activists supports opposition or the West. Instead, Putin uses the tools of threat and intimidation, Soldatov and Borogan wrote.

The Russian government passed its infamous ‘Internet restriction bill’ in 2012, which allowed Roskomnadzor to put together ‘blacklists’. During the vote on the bill, Russian-language Wikipedia shut down for a day to show its protest.

Russia vs. West: Internet troll war

However, the tools of threat and intimidation are not the only tools used by the Kremlin to control the Internet. The Putin’s regime also cares a lot about the President and country’s image in Western media sources.

That’s the reason why Russia is waging a war against the West using its well-trained Internet trolls by humiliating the U.S. and President Barack Obama, while praising the regime of Vladimir Putin.

Just a few days ago, ValueWalk shed some light on a ‘factory’ of Russian trolls that get bonuses to their salary – about $750 – in case a Westerner replies to a troll or likes his comment.

Who is Snowden’s Russian lawyer?

The authors of the book also devote a part of the book to describe the relations between the Kremlin and Edward Snowden, former National Security Agency subcontractor.

Fleeing the U.S., Snowden appeared at a Moscow airport on July 12, 2013 alongside his Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena. The lawyer was later described by the Western media as an ally of Mr. Putin.

The authors of the book describe Kucherena as “a prominent lawyer as well as a member of the Public Council within the FSB, an organization established in 2007 to promote the image of the Russian security service.”

Besides, the lawyer serves as a chairman of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, an organization for Putin’s propaganda machine, with branches in New York and Paris.

“Putin had suggested personally that such an institute be created to criticize human rights violations in the United States; the institute has an annual report called ‘The State of Human Rights in the United States’,” Soldatov and Borogan noted.

However, it is unclear why a lawyer so deeply associated with the Putin’s regime has failed to reach any sort of arrangement with the Kremlin regarding his client.

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Polina Tikhonova is a writer, journalist and a certified translator. Over the past 7 years, she has worked for a wide variety of top European, American, Russian, and Ukrainian media outlets. Polina holds a Master's Degree in English Philology from the University of Oxford and a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the Saint Petersburg State University. Her articles and news reports have been published by many newspapers, magazines, journals, blogs and online media sources across the globe. Polina is fluent in English, German, Ukrainian and Russian.

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