Defining Borders Online: Russia’s Sovereign Internet Bill

Berlin's Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOiS) has published Anna Litvinenko's commentary on the new "sovereign Internet" law adopted by the Russian authorities in 2019.  


"Russia’s so-called sovereign Internet bill, which was passed in spring 2019, will enter into force on 1 November. It marks a new milestone in the series of restrictive Internet regulations that started after the wave of protests in 2011–12. Russian state media framed the initiative as a law on a sustainable Internet that would protect Russian citizens from the threat of being disconnected from web infrastructure by the US government. 


The Russian strategy of Internet sustainability is based on three pillars. The first is a centralised system of devices that monitor and can block Internet traffic. This is the bill’s main innovation: all providers will be obliged to install these devices, which will be provided by the state. Critics see this as a new censorship tool that the government can use to control and temporarily disrupt online communications, for instance during protests. The second pillar is national software. Its use has been actively promoted in Russia since 2014, when international sanctions against the country were introduced. The third pillar is data localisation. Several laws already regulate the processing of data on Russian citizens; such data must be stored in databases of the Russian Federation. As a consequence, international companies like Facebook or Google would have to bring their servers to the Russian territory, otherwise they could be blocked. However, the authorities have not been so far consequent in in complying with this legislation." 


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The Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOiS) is an independent, international and interdisciplinary research institute. It focuses on foundational and policy relevant academic research on Eastern Europe and shares the results with policy-makers, the media and the broader public.