Russia: Cyber Security Code of Conduct?

Written by Alexey Sidorenko

The year of 2011 has turned out to be a hot season for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA): the government is attempting to spread the system of Internet controls abroad – and the Russian bloggers interpret these attempts as either a basic self-preservation instinct of the current regime or, even more troublesome, as inadequate thinking about the Internet.

Spreading Internet regulations abroad

In May 2011, the Interparliamentary Assembly of Member Nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States published a model law [ru]  “On the basics of Internet penetration” (not legally binding, recommended as a template for the CIS member state legislature).

Will the United Nations be able to confront the temptation of inadequate thinking? (Flag of The United Nations)

On September 13, together with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China, Russia proposed to the UN Secretary General a document called “International code of conduct for information security.”

Ten days later, Kommersant reported [ru] that the Russian Security Council together with the MFA and representatives of 52 countries, had produced an 18-page draft of a UN convention “On ensuring international information security” (the Convention; English version here).

The documents share the idea that national governments have sovereignty over the ‘national Internet segments.’ The proposed Code of Conduct states that the countries that sign it should pledge:

c) To cooperate in combating criminal and terrorist activities that use information and communications technologies, including networks, and in curbing the dissemination of information that incites terrorism, secessionism or extremism or undermines other countries’ political, economic and social stability, as well as their spiritual and cultural environment; […]

As the main arguments for proposing such a code, the Russian officials point to the militarisation of the net (e.g., the setting up of the US Cyber Command, a military unit that conducts ‘full spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains […],’), and mass mobilisation for anti-government protests.

“Inadequate, [primitive] thinking”

A discussion [ru] at the IT forum Habrahabr has highlighted, however, different motives behind the MFA’s recent activity. User whoozle wrote [ru] (the most popular reply):

Our officials, first and most of all, care about their welfare. And the change of the political situation (let alone the regime) is, obviously, very disadvantageous. All their lives they’ve been stealing, or they’ve just been highly ineffective, and it seems that no one paid any attention to any of it. They’ve pressed the media down to the ground, cancelled demonstrations and elections. Everything is stable and well, and there’s only Internet left.

What can one do in such a situation? One can start thinking, start working, stop stealing. But this is not the path of the Jedi Russian official. The path of the Russian official is to combat those who criticise him. And so far they’ve succeeded in it – the media are canceling critical stories, licenses are being taken away. 🙂 And this is the simplest, unicellular [primitive] response to the threat, and I think that through evolution the society will find an efficient antidote.

User dimakey commented [ru]:

Suspicious that there’s nothing about child porn…

Warrior127 replied [ru]:

According to the officials’ logic, until pedophiles start shouting “Putin should resign,” there’s no sense in fighting pedophilia.

Blogger CLR, however, noted [ru] that the document does address some crucial issues:

The goal is to increase cooperation between security services of the UN member states, because now even the least important inquiry – for instance, the retrieval of the data from hotmail.com (e.g., a guy who ordered a murder uses it to give instructions) can be made only via Interpol and it takes months to get a response, and with our realities such crimes, unless they’re very loud, are being transferred to the ‘unsolveable’ category. And this is not normal at all.

Blogger tachidi wrote [ru] that the problem is not with the control itself, but rather with the officials’ poor vision of what the Internet and our age really are:

Actually, the problem has two sides. Today’s average ‘Internet consumer’ [doesn’t really care] about the issues of freedom, transparency and access to information. Moreover, all this basically does not interest him. That is, even under the worst-case scenario, he will simply not notice any serious changes.

Others, most probably, will find ways to circumvent the issue. 

But the saddest thing here, yes, is the [inadequate] thinking of our [politicians], their total discrepancy with the epoch and the world order.

 
Re-published from Global Voices under the Creative Commons license.
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