Russia’s internet censor enlists China’s Firewall expertise


For an authoritarian government looking to tighten control of an unruly internet, who better to call than the architect of China’s “great firewall”? That was the thinking of Konstantin Malofeev, a multimillionaire with close links to the Kremlin and Russian Orthodox Church, who has become a key player in Moscow’s drive to tame the web and limit America’s digital influence, The FT’s Max Seddon reports:

On Wednesday, Mr Malofeev’s censorship lobbying group, Safe Internet League, [welcomed] a large delegation in Moscow led by Lu Wei, China’s online tsar, and Fang Binxing, the master builder of the country’s digital firewall. The Russians are hoping to learn Chinese techniques for filtering sites they deem undesirable so their contents can be kept from public view. …..

“Parliamentary elections are coming and they need a solution for the internet,” said Andrei Soldatov, author of The Red Web, a recent history of Russia’s attempts to control the internet…..Even with China’s considerable know-how, taming Russia’s internet may be impossible. While Beijing has been restricting its citizens’ access for decades, Moscow long overlooked it. Putting the internet back in the box may no longer be feasible. “They don’t have the technology,” Mr Soldatov said. “Their people and their resources aren’t good enough.”

China’s Cyberczar Lu Wei and VPN-toting Great Firewall mastermind Fang Binxing were in Moscow to speak at the Russia-China ICT Development & Security Forum at the 7th International Safe Internet Forum, notes China Digital Times (a partner of the National Endowment for Democracy):

The expansion of a Chinese model of internet governance has long loomed, with Russia at the forefront. At China US Focus, China Copyright and Media’s Rogier Creemers discusses the characteristics and international appeal of such a model, built on the “foundational norm” of national sovereignty….While this state-dominated approach may be directly at odds with liberal Western inclinations, Creemers argues, it must now be taken seriously:

Liberal-democratic notions, accompanied by a strong anti-government bias, have been tremendously influential in shaping the belief systems of Internet governance stakeholders hitherto. Such notions of legal and legitimate limitations to state power are absent in the Chinese context, where the historical experience of successive governments has been that a strong, capable state is necessary to ensure national power and prosperity. In other words, where it is often inconceivable that the state plays a dominant role in regulating cyberspace in Western views, in Chinese eyes, it is equally inconceivable that it doesn’t. [Source]

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