Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Too much foreign influence in the Russian Internet – report

The Civil Society Development Fund, led by the former head of internal policy for the presidential administration, Konstantin Kostin, published a report warning of international pressure on the Russian segment of the Internet. The report’s authors are worried that if Russians start to trust information on the Internet more and more, then it will play a pivotal role in the next presidential and parliamentary elections in 2016-2018, reported. “The Internet will become the basic source of information for Russian in several years’ time,” said the report. “This tendency has special significance in view of the upcoming political cycles in 2016-2018. If citizens’ trust in the Internet as their main source of information keeps growing, then we can safely say that elections for State Duma in 2016 and especially presidential election 2018 will take place in a new information reality, where the main role will belong to the World Wide Web.” The authors of the report pointed to the rapid rise of the Internet’s acceptability and reach, the Internet audience growing to include progressively older people and that users stopped seeing it as only the source of entertainment. American services too powerful Moreover, they reported that now there is an active expansion of U.S. services into the Russian market. At the moment, based on average daily audiences, five out of 20 leading Russian Internet players are not Russian – Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter. “If this tendency continues, then in a few years time there could be a situation where the majority of the Russian Internet is controlled by foreign services, located on servers outside of Russia and registered in domain zones abroad,” the report says. Russia low on Internet freedom list Meanwhile, U.S. organization Freedom House published a ranking of countries with the most freedom online. Estonia, the United States and Germany took the top three places, and Russia was ranked 30th out of 47 countries examined. While Internet is wide-spread in Russia, online journalists often feel pressure from the authorities. In 2011, 49 percent of the population was online, up from 18 percent in 2006. However, some areas, like the Far East, Siberia, Sakhalin and North Caucasus, are still poorly connected to the Internet. Internet providers are often encouraged by the prosecutors to remove materials before court hearings, which promote self-censorship, the report says. Russia was overtaken by Kenya (13th place), Nigeria (15th place) and Uganda (17th place). Russia’s neighbour Ukraine is 12th and Belarus is 37th. Estonia is one of the most technologically-developed countries in the world, according to the U.S. government funded organization, with accessible “online government.” The United States took second place, because even if more people are connected to the Internet there, tariffs and speeds are often worse there than in other countries. The top 10 is made up of Australia, Hungary, Italy, the Philippines, Great Britain, Argentina and South Africa. The worst situation is in Uzbekistan, Syria, China, Cuba and Iran.

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