How Edward Snowden inadvertently helped Vladimir Putin’s internet crackdown

Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan write: In the 1990s the global nature of the Internet meant wires. When a user got connected, he could send his e-mail or visit a website anywhere in the world. In the 2000s the Internet meant the rise of global platforms that allowed users to share the same social networks, email services, search engines, and clouds. The Internet became more of a common ground for people from Argentina to Russia — they used the same Facebook, the same Twitter. That also meant that the information users exchanged was stored inside systems located far from the users — systems that could not be readily controlled by nations, their leaders, or their secret services. Most of the servers were located in the United States.

For Russian President Vladimir Putin, this was intolerable. In his mind the solution was simple: force the platforms — Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Apple among them — to locate their servers on Russian soil so Russian authorities could control them.

The challenge was how to do it.

The Kremlin obviously needed a pretext to put pressure on the global platforms to relocate their servers, and Edward Snowden’s revelations provided the perfect excuse to start the offensive. The members of the Russian parliament chosen by the Kremlin to define Internet legislation rushed to comment on his revelations. Legislation forcing global platforms to store Russians’ personal data in Russia was soon adopted, and came into force on Tuesday [Sept. 1], sending Western tech giants scrambling to comply. Russian censors announced plans to blacklist websites including Wikipedia, Github, the Wayback Machine, and BuzzFeed. Snowden had no say in the matter. [Continue reading…]

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