Connect with us

SOCIAL

The battle to keep Russia’s internet free

Published

on

International sanctions have seen companies including big tech firms halt operations in Russia


International sanctions have seen companies including big tech firms halt operations in Russia – Copyright PRENSA SENADO/AFP Handout

Julie Jammot

Western powers have seized the yachts of Russian oligarchs and booted Russian banks out of the international system in response to the Ukraine invasion, but sanctions that limit access to the internet are proving highly divisive.

Ukraine has called loudly for a widespread boycott and Kyiv has even pushed for Russia to be cut off from the world wide web.

International sanctions have seen companies including big tech firms halt operations in Russia, and EU bans on Russian state media outlets have prompted the Kremlin to ban platforms including Facebook and Instagram.

Critics say all of this could well marginalise opponents of the Kremlin, boost the dominance of state media and even lead Russia to try to develop a sealed-off, local version of the internet.

“It’s just severing the few remaining ties to the free flow of information and ideas,” says Peter Micek of Access Now, an NGO that campaigns for digital rights.

Advertisement

A Kremlin crackdown on journalists has already drastically reduced independent sources of information, forcing many media outlets to close or scale back their operations.

Most international social networks are now available only through virtual private networks (VPNs), with figures for VPN downloads suggesting plenty of Russians are following this path.

But with web access being squeezed from the inside and the outside, many experts are now calling for the West to take a different approach.

– ‘Hearts and minds’ –

See also  Study links social media to anxiety risks in teens

“Sanctions should be focused and precise,” some 40 researchers, activists and politicians wrote in an open letter last week.

“They should minimise the chance of unintended consequences or collateral damage. Disproportionate or over-broad sanctions risk fundamentally alienating populations.”

The letter called for military and propaganda outlets to be targeted.

Other experts point out that punishing Russia by closing off the internet is both technically and politically tricky.

Advertisement

Ukraine called global regulator ICANN to do just this on February 28, but the request was rejected.

“If you try to stop traffic from getting in through the window, it just comes through the cellar instead,” explains Ronan David of Efficient IP, a firm specialised in securing computer networks. 

For Micek, it is simply “counterproductive to the effort to win hearts and minds and spread democratic messages”.

“Because the only counter-narrative, the only other narrative is coming from the Kremlin,” he says.

Natalia Krapiva, a lawyer with Access Now, highlights that people exposed to those narratives may well conclude that “Russia is trying to help Ukrainians and is protecting itself”.

In this context, Western sanctions may seem “completely unfair”, she says.

– Fears of ‘splinternet’ –

The big fear is that the war and the deepening freeze in relations between Russia and the West will lead the Kremlin to develop its own internet.

Advertisement

China has already built a vast system of control around its internet, dubbed the “Great Firewall”, which in effect cuts it off from the rest of the world.

Recent developments in Russia have led some commentators to speculate that the world faces the creation of a “splinternet”, anathema to those who campaign for equal access across the globe.

See also  Play The Elder Scrolls Online Free for a Limited Time and Preview Tamriel's Next Big Adventure

“The Russians are quite capable of building a national internet,” says Pierre Bonis of Afnic, the association that manages the .fr domain.

But he says it would be a pale imitation of the global internet.

“We must not break the universality of the internet, even if the Russians do unacceptable things,” he says.

But China is not the only country to have invested heavily to build a closed internet.

Micek points out that Iran has spent a decade building its own controlled, censored version of the web.

“We feel that US sanctions are sort of encouraging Iran to build this functioning national internet by depriving Iranian businesses of basic Google, Amazon and other platforms and resources,” he says.

Advertisement

And he can see a similar process at play with Russia.

“The people in Russia and Belarus have so little access to information that depriving them of internet services will send them further into Putin’s fist,” he says.



Source link

SOCIAL

Murdered rapper’s song pulled from YouTube in India

Published

on

Sidhu Moose Wala's murder sparked anger and outrage from fans from across the world

Sidhu Moose Wala’s murder sparked anger and outrage from fans from across the world – Copyright AFP Narinder NANU

YouTube has removed a viral music video in India released posthumously by murdered Sikh rapper Sidhu Moose Wala following a complaint by the government.

The song “SYL” talks about the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal which has been at the centre of a long-running water dispute between the late Sikh rapper’s home state of Punjab and neighbouring Haryana.

The track, released posthumously on Thursday, also touches on other sensitive topics such as deadly riots targeting the Sikh community that broke out in India in 1984 and the storming of an important Sikh temple in Amritsar by the army the same year.

It had garnered nearly 30 million views and 3.3 million likes on the singer’s YouTube page before it was pulled down over the weekend.

“This content is not available on this country domain due to a legal complaint from the government,” said a message posted on the song link.

The song is still available in other countries.

Advertisement

In an email to AFP, a YouTube spokesperson said it had only removed the song in “keeping with local laws and our Terms of Service after a thorough review”.

The government did not immediately respond to enquiries.

Moose Wala’s family termed the removal of the song “unjust” and appealed to the government to take back the complaint, local media reports said.

“They can ban the song but they cannot take Sidhu out of the hearts of the people. We will discuss legal options with lawyers,” uncle Chamkaur Singh was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times daily.

See also  Google and Instagram Provide Insight into Thanksgiving Food Trends

Moose Wala — also known by his birth name Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu — was shot dead in his car in the northern state of Punjab last month.

The 28-year-old was a popular musician both in India and among Punjabi communities abroad, especially in Canada and Britain.

His death sparked anger and outrage from fans from across the world.

Last week, Indian police arrested three men accused of murdering Moose Wala and seized a cache of weaponry including a grenade launcher.

Advertisement

The men had allegedly acted at the behest of Canada-based gangster Goldy Brar and his accomplice Lawrence Bishnoi who is currently in jail in India.

Moose Wala rose to fame with catchy songs that attacked rival rappers and politicians, portraying himself as a man who fought for his community’s pride, delivered justice and gunned down enemies.

He was criticised for promoting gun culture through his music videos, in which he regularly posed with firearms.

His murder also put the spotlight on organised crime in Punjab, a major transit route for drugs entering India from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Many observers link the narcotics trade — mostly heroin and opium — to an uptick in gang-related violence and the use of illegal arms in the state.

Source link

Advertisement
Continue Reading

DON'T MISS ANY IMPORTANT NEWS!
Subscribe To our Newsletter
We promise not to spam you. Unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

Trending

en_USEnglish