Russia Takes a Big Step Toward Internet Isolation
Russia can’t cut its internet off from the rest of the world yet. But a recent test foreshadowed more censorship and repression to come.
Over the holidays, the Russian government said it had completed a multi-day test of a national, internal internet known as RuNet, a bid to show that the country’s online infrastructure could survive even if disconnected from the rest of the world. Though Russia claims the initiative relates to cybersecurity, researchers and human rights advocates inside Russia and around the world argue that the test underscores Russia’s broader campaign to control and censor access to digital information within its borders.
Whether the Kremlin intends to fully cut Russia off from the global internet remains an open question. But through its support of purpose-built Russian services and its tech sector more generally, Russia has indisputably made significant steps toward going it alone. In early December, President Vladimir Putin signed a law that will take effect this summer requiring all computers, smartphones, and smart TVs sold in Russia to come pre-loaded with apps from Russian developers. The government is also investing 2 billion rubles—about $32 million—in a Russian Wikipedia alternative.