Russian Communication Minister Criticizes SOPA

By: Qichen Zhang on 27 January 2012

Russian communication minister Igor Shchyogolev recently published an op-ed piece in Russian newspaper Vedomosti that condemns the SOPA bill as a censorship tool. Shchyogolev critiqued the business impacts of proposal, saying, "It is impossible to block and censor the Internet—otherwise it simply loses its point."

Shchyogolev compared Internet regulations in Russia and the United States, stating that he believed Internet freedom in Russia is greater than in the US. Shchyogolev argued that rather than trying to restrict Internet activity, open and public discourse about appropriate online conduct is needed:

An international code of conduct in cyberspace might go a long way towards checking abuse of information technologies to cause harm to individual states and the world at large. Not all states are ready to sign a legally binding convention on the Internet, but the nature of the Internet is such that, unless everyone adheres to such a binding agreement, it will be ineffective. A dialogue is needed to determine the basic concepts, for a start.

The Russian Pirate Party also voiced opposition to SOPA, staging a rally outside the American embassy in Moscow last week. The party sent a petition to Ambassador Michael McFaul, writing, "We ask you not to remain indifferent but to convey to the U.S. public and government how important it is for the democratic future of Russia to save the freedom of internet."

Shchyogolev's fervent declaration of support of Internet freedom comes as something of a contrast to the Russian government's history of cregulating netizen activity. Early last year, the administration was behind a number of attempts to regulate the country's cyberspace, including the promotion of the League of Internet Safety (a volunteer group to report inappropriate content online) and a request for tender for a new Internet monitoring system. In April, the head of the Information and Special Communications Protection Center of Russia's Federal Security Service commented that he would like to see greater control over Skype, Hotmail, and Gmail for the sake of Russia's national security. Last July, the Communications Ministry was considering censoring offensive comments written in digital media publications. And just a few months ago, the United States Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive called Russia one of the “world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of cyber espionage."

For more information, see ONI's coverage of the DDoS attacks in Russia during the country's national elections in December 2011.