On Thursday, Edward Snowden asked Russian president Vladimir Putin whether the Kremlin conducts mass surveillance.
Snowden’s question is a positive development, according to Russian security expert Andrei Soldatov, because it provides an opportunity to finally discuss surveillance by countries besides the U.S.
“The whole idea of Snowden’s revelations, why it’s important, why we need to think of all of these practices of surveillance: [The] global debate over the Internet. This is at stake,” Soldatov told Business Insider in January and reiterated in an email on Friday. “This is the most important thing.”
Soldatov has been writing about how Russia is leading the charge for breaking up the Internet as it currently functions and running web traffic through servers in each respective country.
“In two years we may get a completely different Internet,” he told BI. “It might be a collected of Intranets instead of one Internet. Actually I think it’s very possible.”
Soldatov explains that the NSA leaks and the selective reporting have bolstered Russia’s argument for drastically web rerouting.
“Like the Russian government, which is currently using the Snowden disclosures to justify bringing global online platforms and services under Russian jurisdiction, many countries are beginning to support the concept of national sovereignty in cyberspace,” Soldatov wrote in March, noting changes in the stances of Brazil and Germany after disclosures from Snowden’s cache.
Furthermore, Putin already knows how he would implement national sovereignty on the Internet, which would enable greater Internet censorship by governments
“The key word here is pressure — whether it is aimed at journalists, activist groups, or global online platforms,” Soldatov wrote. “Russia has already provided a cohesive, detailed and well thought out blueprint for turning the Internet into a collection of national intranets.”
And if Russia gets its way, the Internet as we know it would be gone. According to Soldatov, the only way to stop that is to discuss Russia’s surveillance state.
“It seems to be completely crazy because we need to talk about all security services,” Soldatov, who co-wrote the book on Russia’s post-Soviet security services, “Why is it all about Americans? [Snowden and his supporters] are missing the point.”
So even though Snowden’s scripted question came during a four-hour public question-and-answer session on the propaganda network Russia Today, the substance is good for the U.S. and the Internet at large because it highlights Russian own oppressive spying practices.
“I suspect Kremlin propaganda wanted to play Snowden nevertheless this was a positive thing because it helps us to start the debate about the mass surveillance in Russia,” Soldatov told Eli Lake of The Daily Beast.
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