Russia's Interior Minister Pushes For Extreme Internet Censorship Measures

Photo: Getty Images/Dima Korotayev

Russia’s Ministry of the Interior plans to set up special centres to assess hate-mongering and extremism in mass media, including online publications, YouTube, and Facebook pages, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said on Friday, according to Ria Novosti.Nurgaliyev wants to open a centre in each Russian district. Two already operate in Moscow and St. Petersburg. “We are working on creating special interregional centres with expertise in electronic media, printed, audio and video features to check them for any indications of extremism,” he told Gazeta. The monitoring will be done by bureaucrats who are part of the presidential administration.

The initiative is the latest in the government’s crackdown on extremism on the Internet. And while politicians and activists alike believe it needs to be dealt with, this measure seems to have touched a nerve with everyone. So much so that even those expected to implement it have washed their hands of it.

“I’m afraid it may create the total surveillance of the Russian segment of the internet,” Pavel Chikov, a lawyer and head of Agora human rights watchdog, told Gazeta. He said the initiative would lead to political censorship and an increase of criminal cases against bloggers on “invented accusations connected to extremism,” something Russia has been accused of before.

Duma members were also sceptical, saying it was unclear how plenipotentiaries, who are political institutions, were supposed to help fight extremism.┬áThe plenipotentiaries themselves seem surprised, too. “This idea is definitely not ours. This is important, but the Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications already do this expertise,” a Far Eastern representative said.

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