Information Warfare: The Revolution Is Just Getting Started

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May 20, 2014: Russia is beginning to enforce a law that will give the state control over blogs. Any blog with more than 3,000 visitors a day must register with the government, providing the true identity of the owner and operator of the blog. Russia already has a bunch of laws allowing the government to punish misbehaving journalists (who say anything the government does not like.) While there are many ways Russian bloggers can get around this new censorship that may not be necessary. Blogging is being replaced by other forms of social media. That, and the availability of so many Internet tools to get around censorship attempts make the latest government ploy more of an annoyance than a step towards effective censorship of the web.

As China, which has far more resources devoted to Internet censorship, has discovered that once you have the Internet you cannot shut down the flow of information. You can’t stop the signal. China also has far stricter press censorship than Russia and still the government has been unable to stop harmful (to the government) news from getting to the Chinese people, often coming from other Chinese via the Internet. Moreover only 43 percent of Chinese have Internet access compared to 54 percent in Russia. By way of comparison in the U.S. its 81 percent, while Japan is 79 percent and Hong Kong (a semi-autonomous part of China) is 73 percent.

Until rather recently senior Russian officials saw blogging as useful. For example, in 2011 Russian police and intelligence services were quite upset after an anonymous attacker shut down country's largest blog hosting site on April 6th for about an hour. Among the millions of bloggers who were shut out was the president of Russia and many other prominent politicians. This was being done with the same kind of hacker attacks (DDOS) used against Estonian, Georgian and Central Asian sites during the previous four years. These earlier attacks were seen as Russian government efforts to cripple political parties and groups that do not agree with Russian policies.

Meanwhile Russians had become the most energetic social networking users on the planet, spending twice as many hours (as the world average) on blogging and other social networking activities. The 2011 DDOS attack may have come from Russian hackers angered at apparent government efforts to censor what appears on Russian websites. The government won't admit to actual censorship, but there were growing incidents of anti-government items not showing up after posting, because of mysterious (and seemingly bogus) "technical issues." Since the government depends on the Internet a lot to maintain control of the public opinion, the DDOS attack is believed to be a warning that there are many Russians capable of shutting down government Internet operations.

Since 2011 those Russian Internet users suspicious of their own government’s motives have proved correct and even before the current blogging restrictions came along Russian Internet users were expecting the worst. For Russian Internet users, the revolution is just getting started.

 

 


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