While declaring the demise of the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin is close to enacting sweeping new powers to regulate the Web and block sites of his government’s choosing. He has received support from Natalya Kaspersky, chief executive of InfoWatch, who said that the Web could use some government control and that civil libertarians are exaggerating concerns about Putin’s control of speech on the Internet. For those people signing up with InfoWatch, it may come as a bit of a surprise that the company is aligned with a man who is rolling back on basic civil liberties for millions and working to limit speech on the Internet — a threat to his authoritarian agenda. Kaspersky actually heralds the possible benefits of a Russian blacklist controlled by Putin.
While InfoWatch does not see any problem at all with such government control, civil liberties and good government groups have risen in opposition to the greatest threat to free speech in Russia since Putin took over control.
Unlike InfoWatch, other sites have stood up to Putin. Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, shut its Russian Web site with a large warning on its home page: “Imagine a world without free knowledge.” The notice said the proposed law “can lead to the creation of extrajudicial censorship of the Internet in Russia, including the closure of access to Wikipedia.”
The new law is part of an overall crackdown on free speech and assembly of Putin critics. After tightening control over television and newspaper reporting, the Putin regime still faces a free Internet where citizens can receive uncensored news. The Putin bill would correct that and is moving through the Putin controlled Duma. In addition to giving the government control, it would establish a registry or so-called “black list” of Internet content that is prohibited for publication. It would also create procedures for barring Web hosting companies that do not block the banned material.
None of this concerns Natalya Kaspersky, chief executive of InfoWatch which provides data protection services. She dismissed the concerns of civil libertarians and cannot understand fears about Putin control over the Internet: “We might argue if such ‘black list’ approach is efficient in the modern Internet assuming the sites might quickly move to another address. However, it is better than nothing.” Nothing of course means unrestricted free speech — apparently a frightful thought to the InfoWatch CEO. Kaspersky warns “Right now we have a tremendous freedom of speech in mass media, with no prohibited topics at all.” Perish the thought, “no prohibited topics at all.” What will come of us?
A curious position for a company that insists “your data is your business.” Your business and of course Vladimir Putin’s business.
Source: NY Times