21 May 2014
By Damir Gainutdinov
Source: Open Democracy Russia
In ten years, the number of active Russian internet users has leapt from 3% to 48% of the population, and counting. The government reacted by introducing a register of blacklisted sites. But some users are fighting back.
Fourteen years ago, as the new millennium dawned, the internet was already becoming less free: America was witnessing the battle between the band Metallica and the founders of the Napster peer-to-peer file sharing service; the French parliament passed a law obliging owners of sites to register; and China was embarking on building its Great Firewall. But at that time, RuNet, the Russian internet, could truly be described as one of the freest corners of the internet; indeed, as little as seven years ago, the Russian authorities were paying no attention at all to internet users, and there was almost no regulation of the internet. There were so few criminal cases of internet activism that they could be counted on the fingers of one hand; the order to block a site was in the power of the regional prosecutors, and used mainly to deal with extremism, usually information published on radical right-wing sites.
This golden age was possible because the Russian authorities did not regard the internet as in any way threatening their prosperity. They had little understanding of its workings or basic principles, considering it a refuge for strange but harmless people with a narrow range of interests, which did not impinge on the real world, where elections are rigged, issues are 'settled,' and dachas built in conservation areas using government money. That was then. [Read more]
This article was first published by Open Democracy Russia and is reprinted here by kind permission