The Russian government continues to tighten control over the information space. But in report The Institute for War Research cites Russian military observers as saying the Kremlin’s efforts to shape the media space “look like a kitten against a rhinoceros” compared to foreign “think tanks”, non-profit organizations and “independent media”.
By the end of 2022, the State Duma may consider a draft law on regulating the online algorithms of “recommenders”, which will finally allow the government to turn off certain algorithms.
It is reported that the bill is being developed by State Duma Deputy for Information Policy Anton Gorelkin and will include the regulation of social networks, online cinemas, search engines, online stores. Kommersant noted that this bill would require the owners of all sites and platforms to ensure that the government can completely or partially block the participation of specific users and that these provisions appeared before the start of the war in October 2021, specifically targeting Western media such as Facebook. Instagram and YouTube because of the risk of “social conflict”.
Some Russian military observers have reacted to speculation about the future law and noted that such recommender algorithms make it harder for countries to spread propaganda due to the availability of widespread and personal information online.
The Duma is likely considering this bill in an attempt to address the issue of the Kremlin’s ability to present war to domestic audiences and advocate its expediency, to create direct means to counter both internal and external sources of online dissent.
The Federal State Security Service (FSB) of Russia took additional measures to codify control over the information space and on November 4 signed an order that approved a list of military and military-technical measures that, if they come from foreign sources, can be used against the security of the Russian Federation.
The decree essentially codifies the types of information relating to Russian military operations that the FSB considers a threat to Russia’s security, technically not an official state secret, and contains a wide range of provisions relating to information coverage of the war.
The decree is an expanded attempt by the FSB to widely ban a wide range of information about the Russian military, ostensibly to increase control over the discussion among Russian milbloggers and other such sources, who often discuss and criticize the tactical, operational and strategic dimensions of the war in Ukraine.
Both the bill proposed by the Duma and the FSB decree indicate that the Russian government is trying to take control of the information space, as it is increasingly filled with criticism of the Russian military, sounding from both inside and outside. Russian officials are likely seeking to consolidate censorship measures to quell the prevalence of foreign and domestic criticism, applying legislative pressure on fundamental algorithms and presenting a wide range of activities that can be considered detrimental to Russia’s state security.