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[liberationtech] [governance] Russian Internet Content Monitoring System To Go Live In December

Louis Pouzin (well) pouzin at
Wed Nov 9 05:11:50 PST 2011

*It seems fashionable for a number of countries to order such sniffers.
Providers are Israel, USA, maybe New Zealand, Australia. Keep the list open.
*- - -

On Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 13:39, Pranesh Prakash <pranesh at> wrote:

> From Techdirt:
> # Russian Internet Content Monitoring System To Go Live In December
> by Glyn Moody
> Wed, Nov 9th 2011 2:33am
> Back in April of this year, [the Russian government put out a tender][]:
> > Last week, Roskomnadzor, Russian Federal Service for Telecoms
> Supervision, announced a public tender for developing Internet
> monitoring system. According to the tender, the budget for such system
> is 15 million rubles (about $530,000) and the job applications should be
> submitted by April 15, 2011. The system needs to be developed by August
> 15, 2011 and the testing period should end on December 15, 2011.
> The stated purpose of the monitoring system was quite specific:
> > The major target of the monitoring, at least according to the Russian
> officials, is not traditional media websites or blogs, but comments at
> the online media outlets (it is important to note that the monitoring
> system is intended to be used for the content of the sites officially
> registered as online mass media).
> Here’s what it would be searching for:
> > Michail Vorobiev, an assistant to the head of Roskomnadzor, [told][]
> [ru] Russian information agency RIA Novosti that the system’s purpose
> was to discover content recognized by the Russian law as illegal. Such
> system will be based on two elements: a storage that would contain
> illegal materials (some sort of “thesaurus of illegal keywords”) and the
> search system that will scan through the online space and compare the
> online text with the illegal content in the storage.
> >
> >  The description of the tender is a long and openly published
> [document][] [ru], so what exactly the system should look for is not a
> secret. The number and the nature of goals that the search robot should
> achieve are surprising. It goes ways beyond incitement of national
> hatred or appeals to violence. In includes not only terrorism, appeals
> to actions that threaten constitutional order, materials that disclose
> classified security information, propaganda of drugs and pornography,
> but also false information about federal and regional officials, as well
> as content that threatens the freedom and secrecy of choice during
> elections. Another interesting goal is to discover content with hidden
> embedded components that seek to influence subconsciousness. If it�s not
> enough, the program would monitor not only textual, but also visual
> content (photos and videos).
> It’s hard to see how a system costing just half-a-million dollars could
> achieve all that. And as Russian commentators have pointed out, allowing
> just a few months for the development and testing is equally suspicious:
> > For instance, Maksim Salomatin from [says][] [ru] that the
> fact that participants of the tender should finish the work on the
> system in impossible 3 months means that, probably, Roskomnadzor has in
> mind some particular organization that has already worked on this program.
> In other words, perhaps the whole tendering process was a formality, and
> things had already been moving forward on this front in the background
> for some time. Support for that theory comes from the fact that despite
> the “impossible 3 months” of development, [the system will indeed be
> rolled out next month][]:
> > Roskomnadzor, Russian telecommunications control body, will launch
> content monitoring system in December 2011, [reports][]
> [ru]. The system ordered in March, 2011 (see GV analysis [here][the
> Russian government put out a tender]) is now in pre-release condition.
> Its documented abilities allow the monitoring of up to 5 mln keywords
> published at the websites registered as online mass media outlets. It
> will also monitor user comments. The experts fear that the scale of
> monitoring will extend to non-registered blogs and sites.
> As that points out, the danger is that once such a system is up and
> running, it will be progressively extended to include first “unofficial”
> media sites like blogs, and then, eventually, everything online. That
> might also explain why the tender quotes such a ridiculously small
> figure: the final system would be pretty expensive, but revealing that
> fact in the original tender would give away the true scope.
> The question then becomes: what will the authorities do with all that
> information? Since 2010, Roskomnadzor has been able to require online
> mass media to remove illegal comments, so it will presumably do the same
> when content is flagged up by the new system. But the very breadth of
> the online search is troubling, including as it does things like “false
> information about federal and regional officials”, something that could
> clearly be used against whistle-blowers.
> Moreover, the danger here is not just for Russian citizens. Once again
> we are seeing a government striving to keep a much closer watch on key
> parts of the Internet — in this case, mass media sites. Assuming it
> succeeds — or at least claims to have succeeded — that is likely to
> encourage other countries to do the same.
> Although it would be nice to think that only “repressive” governments
> would even think of doing such a thing, recent proposals by politicians
> in the US and Europe regarding [blocking sites][] and [spying on
> users][] indicate how naïve that would be.
> Follow me @glynmoody on [Twitter][] or [][], and on [Google+][]
> ## Links
>  [the Russian government put out a tender]:
>  [told]:
>  [document]:
>  [says]:
>  [the system will indeed be rolled out next month]:
>  [reports]:
>  [blocking sites]:
>  [spying on users]:
>  [Twitter]:
>  []:
>  [Google+]:
> --
> Pranesh Prakash
> Programme Manager
> Centre for Internet and Society
> W: | T: +91 80 40926283
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