Russia strengthens online monitoring tools to tackle banned content


MOSCOW, Sept. 24 (Reuters) – Russia will add three new tools to its tech arsenal as part of its fight against banned content online, according to state procurement documents, a move that critics say could further stifle political dissent.

Russia has passed a series of laws in recent years to strengthen what it calls its “sovereignty” over the Internet. He fined social media companies for not removing banned material and sought to block some online resources ahead of this month’s parliamentary elections. Read more

The government is now investing in more sophisticated digital tools to improve its cyberspace policing.

New Information Surveillance System (MIR-1) will automatically scan for banned content on social networks such as Facebook (FB.O), Twitter (TWTR.N), Telegram messaging app and Russian site Vkontakte , according to official documents, improving law enforcement efforts of the public communications regulator Roskomnadzor.

Tenders are also planned for two other new systems – Oculus, which will be used to search for visual information, and Vepr, a means of defending against computer threats.

The proposed budget proposed this week showed that Russia could spend 31 billion rubles ($ 425 million) to improve the security, stability and functionality of its internet infrastructure in 2022-24.

The three new systems will use artificial intelligence, machine learning and neural networks and are expected to be up and running by next year. Russia is offering nearly 83 million rubles for their research and development.

Roskomnadzor did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

The prospect has alarmed some critics, whom the Kremlin has previously sought to quell by labeling opposition groups and the media as “extremists” or “unwanted.”

Government pressure led US tech giants Apple (AAPL.O) and Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O) to remove tactical voting app produced by jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and his allies from their stores ahead of this month’s election. Read more

Human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov has urged Russian internet users to remove old posts or accounts containing content that can now be considered illegal, such as references to banned political groups, fearing an increase in criminal charges.

“The authorities will have a technical advantage and a law enforcement advantage,” Chikov said.

The penalties could range from administrative fines to a maximum criminal sentence of nine years behind bars, he said.

($ 1 = 72 9,950 rubles)

Additional reporting and writing by Alexander Marrow Editing by Katya Golubkova and Gareth Jones

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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