The staples of Runet #1. The battle for YouTube, a series about Runet and a new round of the fight against Telegram
The idea to make a column on the upcoming "sovereign" Russian Internet within the framework of Mobile-Review.com has matured for me for a long time, however, the actual news that I would like to cover was rarely typed even for a short note. Whether it's September, when lawmakers and other powerful people came out of their summer holidays and rushed to fight for a decent life for Russian users with renewed vigor. Therefore, let's at least try with this heading, and then how it will turn out. And I propose to start today with historical content.
Documentary series “Holivar. History of Runet"
A couple of weeks ago, the Current Time TV channel premiered a documentary series about the Russian Internet, filmed by well-known journalist and reporter Andrey Loshak. It is worth paying tribute to the author that such a series appeared at all, and also for the number of archival frames that he managed to get. Could you imagine an anecdotal picture in which the then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, web designer Artemy Lebedev in a bandana and one of the "fathers of Runet" Anton Nosik in a yarmulke are sitting at the same table in the Kremlin? And there are many such rare shots in the film.
The series begins with a story about the birth of the Runet within the walls of VNIIPAS and about a Californian hippie who had the idea to unite people from all over the world. There is also anecdot.ru, which has become the most popular site in Russia (while 18+ content ruled the ball in the West), and Artemy Lebedev, who meets representatives of Hewlett-Packard and the State Duma in his kitchen. In general, the series is excellent, and I highly recommend watching it.
Potential "Battle for YouTube"
Before watching the series, I came across an interview by Andrey Loshak dedicated to its premiere. It gave me a lot of food for thought. I share with you interesting thoughts.
The heyday of the Russian Internet came in the 00s - at that time, the Runet showed what the Russian people are capable of with complete freedom and non-interference. Largely due to the fact that it was not controlled by anyone, we have online products that have won competition with Western services within the country: Yandex, Vkontakte, Mail.ru, and so on.
However, back in 2012, long before the Telegram story, the first laws related to the Internet began to be passed. This was a reaction to the opposition rallies, which for the first time were coordinated through social networks, as well as to the African “Twitter revolutions” taking place around the same time. Naturally, even then the authorities wanted to subordinate the Internet to their usual vertical structure, and now they want to establish political boundaries. Will it work, the question is still open.
At the same time, it is YouTube that may become the "main hack" between the state and civil society in the near future. This service today is of great importance not only for protest youth, but also for all other Internet users. Unlike the United States, where TV and YouTube so far organically complement each other, YouTube has already won among young Russians. Moreover, it has become the very "TV" through which young people look at the world. However, unlike TV, the state cannot yet influence YouTube. And this causes him some irritation.
This conflict may flare up in the near future, the prerequisites for this are beginning to appear. Moreover, I have already come across the opinion more than once that potential rallies in support of YouTube in the event of a threat of its blocking can gather much more people than rallies in support of Telegram or opposition candidates. But let's get back to the prerequisites.
On the evening of September 6, Roskomnadzor sent letters to Google (including YouTube) and Facebook, where it warned the companies about the possible consequences of political advertising during the “days of silence” on September 7 and 8. The wording of the department was quite formidable: In the event that these response measures are not taken, the Russian Federation will regard this as interference in the sovereign affairs of the country, as well as hostile influence and obstruction of the holding of democratic elections, reserving the right to an adequate response.
It is strange that such an important letter was sent on Friday evening, and literally a few hours before the "day of silence". In the corporate world, at this time, either those tasks that the addressee does not expect to complete (or wants them not to be completed), or he simply wants to force someone to work on the day off, descend. What Roskomnadzor was counting on, I do not presume to judge. But I guess that Google and Facebook simply did not have enough time to comprehend this information and conduct appropriate training for employees.
Expectedly, on September 8, Roskomnadzor reported that it nevertheless discovered the facts of the distribution of political advertising on prohibited days. Google evasively responded to the claims, supporting the view that all advertising must comply with local law, but did not confirm or deny the fact that there were such ads during the “days of silence”. The social network Facebook clearly shifted the responsibility to advertisers, but announced its readiness to remove certain advertising materials after claims from the authorities. Facebook neither confirmed nor denied the fact that political advertising appeared. However, Roskomnadzor has not yet published any evidence, nor has it reported on the possible consequences for the companies.
Despite the serious statements of the department, the topic of the elections somehow calmed down by itself. However, it seems to me that Roskomnadzor has a trick up its sleeve and will definitely use it in the future. We will follow the development of the situation with interest.
Law for Twitter and Facebook
Meanwhile, the first reading in the State Duma passed a bill on fines for violation of the rules for storing personal data. In its current form, it provides for a progressive scale of fines for companies that refuse to localize data about Russians, that is, transfer them to Russian servers. Officials want to make the amount of the fine comparable to the costs of IT companies for localization - from 2 to 6 million rubles for the first violation and from 6 to 18 million rubles for a second violation.
Also, the initiators of the bill hope that multimillion-dollar fines can affect not only the top management of Internet companies, but also their shareholders. According to officials, when a company pays large fines, its shareholders have less money and their reputation deteriorates. And for the most part, they don’t like either the first or the second.
At the moment, the state has the ability to force Internet companies to comply with the law with only two tools - a ridiculous fine of 3,000 rubles and subsequent blocking if the fine did not motivate the company to transfer data to Russia. The new bill already introduces two serious fines instead of one ridiculous one, and only after they are imposed can a blocking be made.
Now under the blow of the bill, if it is passed, are Facebook and Twitter. The head of Roskomnadzor, Alexander Zharov, spoke about this directly and without embarrassment back in June. At the same time, he noted with regret that the IT giants did not want to enter into a dialogue with the department. Despite the fact that Facebook and Twitter obediently paid three thousand fines, none of these companies is in a hurry to transfer data to Russia. At the same time, Roskomnadzor is also in no hurry to block resources. Probably, active actions in relation to them will begin after the adoption of the new bill. And most likely they will not pull with him.
Preparation for the law on sovereign Runet and a simple answer from Telegram
There is only a month and a half left before the law on the sovereign Runet comes into force, and last week news finally appeared about real preparations for it by operators. According to Reuters, Tyumen is already in full swing installing equipment for testing DPI (deep traffic filtering) on real users. For some reason, this particular region was chosen by Roskomnadzor and operators for debugging new software and hardware systems. And it is DPI that should become that “magic wand” that will help Roskomnadzor with blocking objectionable resources, including the blocked, but Company in Kogi State perfectly working Telegram. However, Durov's messenger is ready to meet even such innovations fully armed.
Talking about the introduction of DPI on the networks of Russian operators has been going on for a long time, so Telegram, being determined to continue playing cat and mouse with Roskomnadzor, has prepared for these changes. The latest updates of the messenger have added support for proxy servers with traffic masked as HTTPS. If you do not go into technical details, then messenger traffic passing through such proxy servers will not differ in any way from surfing on ordinary and "legitimate" resources. Accordingly, the new type of proxy makes all expensive DPI useless.
Moreover, after the appearance of appropriate support, users have already deployed dozens of proxy servers of a new type, and, according to representatives of the “near-telegram” community, not one of them has yet been blocked, although old-type servers are banned by the department from time to time.< /p>
Who will win in a new round of struggle between the state and the messenger? Personally, I bet on the previous winner, and then we'll see.
I have absolutely no doubt that an eventful Internet autumn awaits us: a new round of Telegram blocking, and the adoption of a law for Twitter and Facebook, and further development of the situation with YouTube. I sincerely hope that in this struggle a compromise will still be found and we will not lose our usual services. And if we do lose it, which one will you grieve the most?