RUSSOFT, a trade association of the largest software companies in Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus, has come forward with a new proposal to separate the Russian internet from the rest of the world. The group’s president, Valentin Makarov, told the CNews internet newspaper that a funnel could readily be created to control the flow of information through Russia’s online borders. Makarov underscored that such a move would cost several hundred million dollars, and would likely take around 10 years to implement.
The proposal seems to mimic an idea expressed by Russia’s Minister of Communication, Igor Schegolev. Schegolev had earlier spoken about the need to protect the Russian share of the internet (called the Runet for websites ending in .ru), from external threats. The ministry is currently working on creating a Cyrillic alphabet alternative to the Latin-based domain name system, and the controls could feasibly go hand-in-hand.
The proposal on “providing access to foreign Internet resources through a funnel,” appeared in a report written by Makarov titled “Proposals for developing the information society.” As of yet, Makarov says he hasn’t discussed the project “with the people who make the decisions on these issues in Russia.”
The computer expert firmly believes that an information funnel will not necessarily be used to restrict Internet freedoms. “International rules and standards must be worked out to attribute sources that are dangerous to society, and control of the national network must be established based on a dialogue between the government and the online community,” Makarov explained.
Kremlin critics are concerned that such a move would give the government undue power over the internet, which has remained relatively free even as authorities have clamped down on independent print and broadcast media.
The idea harkens to the example of China, which controls online information flows with a wide-scale funneling network. The system, known as the Golden Shield Project and the Great Firewall of China (Read a detailed account from The Atlantic) controls the flow of information in and out of China, and has been used to block independent international news websites as well as information about dissidence in the country.