Russian Presidential elections are all set to take place in March 2018. As the elections approach, internet censorship has begun to peak in Russia. The government is clamping down on internet freedom in the country with 2017 being the worst year in the country in terms of censorship. 115,000 cases of internet censorship were recorded in the past one year.
The Kremlin has been alleged of interfering in international elections with the use of social media. However, in their own country, the government has taken strict measures to ensure the image of the candidates remains untainted. An average of 244 websites were blocked every day in Russia in 2017. Agora, a group of 50 human rights lawyers came up with this report.
There have been a number of regulations to control the web. In 2014 there were just 5 regulations regarding web access. In 2017, the number has shot up to 114. “Throughout 2017, Russian authorities have repeatedly outlawed internet activity that was previously [considered] normal,” Agora said in its report published Monday.
Out of the aforementioned 115,000 cases, the Agora report stated that 110,000 were related to blocking websites. Another shocking statistic that was revealed was that almost every six days, an internet user would be threatened or attacked. Russian courts handed out prison sentences to a web-related case every eight days. The past decade has been progressively worse as over 200 cases of violence were recorded against journalists, bloggers and activists.
Russia has very strict measures of control. Foreign social media platforms have been forced to set up their servers in Russia so that all the data can be accessed any time the government wants. Bloggers who get over 3,000 visits per day have to register their details with the Russian government.
The Internet is usually the first thing that is clamped down upon in semi-dictatorial regimes such as Russia and China. A similar internet clampdown was observed in China during the recent Communist Party Congress where Xi Jinping was re-elected as the General Secretary of the Communist Party.