First Monday 2021-05-02T06:56:05-05:00 Edward J. Valauskas Open Journal Systems <p><em>First Monday</em> is one of the first openly accessible, peer–reviewed journals solely devoted to resarch about the Internet. <em>First Monday</em> has published 2,051 papers in 300 issues,&nbsp;written by 2,956 different authors over the past 25 years. No subscription fees, no submission fees, no advertisements, no fundraisers, no walls.</p> Infrastructure-embedded control, circumvention and sovereignty in the Russian Internet: An introduction 2021-05-02T06:37:47-05:00 Françoise Daucé Francesca Musiani <p>Pursuing the autonomisation and “sovereignisation” of their national Internet (RuNet) since the early 2010s, authorities in the Russian Federation are establishing increasingly stricter regulations on Internet innovation and practices. Since 2018, the team of the <em>ResisTIC (Criticism and circumvention of digital borders in Russia)</em> project explores how different actors of the RuNet resist and adapt to the recent wave of authoritarian and centralizing regulations. One of the project’s primary objectives is to explore the extent to which control and circumvention strategies are embedded in, and conducted by means of the infrastructure of the RuNet. This special issue provides a detailed overview of the different strands of research undertaken by the ResisTIC project team at the crossroads of digital sovereignty, data and infrastructure. Articles by the project team are entwined with contributions by specialists based in Russia and worldwide.</p> 2021-04-07T14:49:48-05:00 Copyright (c) 2021 First Monday Contextualizing sovereignty: A critical review of competing explanations of the Internet governance in the (so-called) Russian case 2021-05-01T08:19:12-05:00 Polina Kolozaridi Dmitry Muravyov <p>In reference to Russia, the concept of “Internet sovereignty” is commonly used to evoke the state’s efforts to tighten its control over the Internet in order to consolidate a non-democratic political regime. Many scholars have discussed Russia’s “sovereign Internet law,” adopted in 2019, yet the precise meaning of both “sovereign” and “Internet” in this context has largely been overlooked. In this article, we attempt to problematize the use of both concepts by drawing on the history of the Internet in Russia to accentuate the structural asymmetries of power in “global” Internet governance. We argue that Russia’s Internet sovereignty claims, grasped in the context of these asymmetries, can be seen as an expression of counter-hegemonic tendencies. Moreover, a historical account of the Internet’s transformation in Russia problematizes a conception of “Internet sovereignty” as unitary and unchanging.</p> 2021-04-10T13:31:43-05:00 Copyright (c) 2021 First Monday Control by infrastructure: Political ambitions meet technical implementations in RuNet 2021-05-01T08:23:10-05:00 Ilona Stadnik <p>Discourse about sovereignty and Internet in Russia is predominantly focused on control of harmful content and information and its negative influence on the political regime and society. However, content control is not the only way to exercise sovereignty over digital media and the Web. Recently, the Russian government started to realize that without controlling Internet infrastructure, most strategies to filter and block Web sites and services are wasted. In the past five to seven years, Russia invested a lot of efforts in the development and adoption of new laws and regulations that deal with RuNet infrastructure, where the aim of centralized Internet traffic control was a real novelty, albeit a very ambitious political goal. This article tries to address the pitfalls of the control-by-infrastructure endeavor of the Russian government through four emblematic cases: the implementation of the “Revizor” system to control ISPs’ compliance to filter Internet resources from the blacklist; the battle to block Telegram messenger in Russia; the implementation of law FZ-90 (popularly referred to as the law “on Sovereign RuNet”); and finally, the ongoing experiment with free access to ‘socially significant Web sites’, which may have serious consequences in the future if used as a ‘white list’ of permitted Web resources. These four cases were chosen because they are deeply interconnected and show how the government has been gradually implementing infrastructure control in connection to content control.</p> 2021-04-13T18:19:00-05:00 Copyright (c) 2021 First Monday Controlling free expression “by infrastructure” in the Russian Internet: The consequences of RuNet sovereignization 2021-05-01T08:19:10-05:00 Liudmila Sivetc <p>Russia has been coaxing foreign Internet companies into building the Yarovaya-Law infrastructure, by listing them as “information disseminators”. This infrastructure, aimed at storing content data collected by information disseminators, might develop into a state-controlled content layer for the sovereign Russian Internet, presenting a new digital lock to curb free expression. However, by the summer of 2020, the building of the Yarovaya-Law infrastructure had faltered due to cost and implementation obstacles; this may now have hindered the continuation of the RuNet sovereignization strategy.</p> 2021-04-16T14:24:16-05:00 Copyright (c) 2021 First Monday Mapping the routes of the Internet for geopolitics: The case of Eastern Ukraine 2021-05-02T06:56:05-05:00 Kevin Limonier Frédérick Douzet Louis Pétiniaud Loqman Salamatian Kave Salamatian <p>In this paper, we argue that data routing is of geopolitical significance. We propose new methodologies to understand and represent the new forms of power rivalries and imbalances that occur within the lower layers of cyberspace, through the analysis of Eastern Ukraine. The Internet is a network of networks where each network is an Autonomous System (ASes). ASes are independent administrative entities controlled by a variety of actors such as governments, companies, and universities. Their administrators have to agree and communicate on paths followed by packets travelling across the Internet, which is made possible by the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). Agreements between ASes are often confidential but BGP requires neighbouring ASes to interact with each other in order to coordinate routing through the constant release of connectivity update messages. These messages announce the availability (or withdrawal) of a sequence of ASes that can be followed to reach an IP address prefix. We select Eastern Ukraine as a case study as in 2020, six years after the beginning of the war in Donbass, data is available to analyze and map changes to data routing. In our study, we conducted a longitudinal analysis of Ukraine’s connectivity through the capture and analysis of these BGP announcements. Our results show how Donbass ASes progressively migrated from Ukraine’s cyberspace towards Russia, while still sharing connections with Ukrainian ASes. Donbass cyberspace therefore sits at the interface of Ukraine and Russia but has been relegated to the periphery of both networks; it is marginalized from the Ukrainian network but not fully integrated into the Russian network. These evolutions both reflect and affect ongoing geopolitical power rivalries in the physical world and demonstrate their strategic significance. Our methodology can be used to conduct studies in other regions subject to geopolitical open conflicts and to infer the strategies developed by states in anticipation of potential threats.</p> 2021-04-19T10:11:34-05:00 Copyright (c) 2021 First Monday The Telegram ban: How censorship “made in Russia” faces a global Internet 2021-05-01T08:19:06-05:00 Ksenia Ermoshina Francesca Musiani <p>When, in April 2018, the Russian Internet watchdog Roskomnadzor orders to block Telegram — the country’s most popular messenger — Internet users in the country respond with a diverse set of digital resistance tactics, including obfuscation and circumvention protocols, proxies, virtual private networks, and full-fledged hacks. This article analyzes the “Telegram ban” and its ramifications, understanding it as a socio-technical controversy that unveils the tensions between the governmental narrative of a “sovereign Internet” and multiple infrastructure-based battles of resistance, critique and circumvention. We show how, in the context of a Russian Internet which is heavily entwined with and dependent from foreign and global infrastructures, a number of bottom-up, infrastructure-based digital resistances are able to emerge and thrive despite the strategy of effective centralised management that the Russian government seeks to present to the world as its own.</p> 2021-04-21T13:43:41-05:00 Copyright (c) 2021 First Monday Codes of conduct for algorithmic news recommendation: The Yandex.News controversy in Russia 2021-05-01T08:19:04-05:00 Françoise Daucé Benjamin Loveluck <p>In Russia, since 2011, the Yandex.News aggregator (Yandex.Novosti) — the Russian equivalent to Google News — has been suspected of political bias in the context of protests against electoral fraud followed by the Ukrainian crisis. This article first outlines the issues associated with automated news recommendation systems, their role as “algorithmic gatekeepers” and the questions they raise in terms of news diversity and possible manipulation. It then analyses the controversies which have developed around Yandex.News, particularly since the authorities have decided to regulate the way it operates through a law adopted in 2016. Finally, it provides an audit of Yandex.News aggregation in 2020, through a quantitative analysis of its database of sources and of the Top 5 results presented on the Yandex homepage. It shows the discrepancy between the diversity of the Russian online mediasphere and the narrowness of the Yandex.News media sample. This research contributes to the sociology of digital platforms and the study of “governance by algorithms”, showing how the Yandex news aggregator is a key asset in the Russian government’s overall disciplining of the country’s media and digital public sphere, in an ongoing effort to assert “digital sovereignty”.</p> 2021-04-22T16:39:38-05:00 Copyright (c) 2021 First Monday ‘In Google we trust’? The Internet giant as a subject of contention and appropriation for the Russian state and civil society 2021-05-01T08:19:02-05:00 Olga Bronnikova Anna Zaytseva <p>This article explores an apparent paradox related to the use of Google services in Russia: several NGOs based in the country consider the Internet giant as a protector of civil liberties. The highly polarized Russian political context, in which local technological companies are increasingly controlled by the State, explains the widespread uses of Google services in daily practices of NGOs. We show how their risk model is focused on the threat emanating from the State, seen as more important than risks emanating from global private companies. In this context, “big tech” solutions are preferred to open source software as they are valued for their usability. Internet giants, such as Google, are understood by civil society actors as powerful allies in this internal confrontation, as their dominant economic role is seen as a guarantee that they will not yield to pressure from authorities. Finally, we will see how, in parallel, self-regulatory virtues of the competitive global IT market, and the strength of global public opinion, are supposed to “naturally” force these companies to comply with ethical standards in data use.</p> 2021-04-24T18:05:58-05:00 Copyright (c) 2021 First Monday Social media and state repression: The case of VKontakte and the anti-garbage protest in Shies, in Far Northern Russia 2021-05-01T08:19:00-05:00 Perrine Poupin <p>This article analytically describes the digital technologies-embedded repression practices developed against a local grassroot environmental protest in Far Northern Russia. Unlike urban political opposition that uses United States-based social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter), grassroots movements mainly use VKontakte, the Russia-developed dominant social network in the country. They use it despite the potential privacy and security risks this platform has posed to users since 2014. By means of an ethnographic approach, this article focuses on government responses to online protest activities and counter-practices formulated by activists to circumvent limitations. Inhabitants have been fighting since July 2018 against a waste landfill project designed to ship vast quantities of garbage from Moscow to a remote site called Shies. A protest camp was set up and maintained to physically preserve the site, joined by people from all over Russia. This article shows that, even as it became a target of government surveillance, VKontakte remains a crucial tool for local activism.</p> 2021-04-26T07:39:33-05:00 Copyright (c) 2021 First Monday “Free libraries for the free people”: How mass-literature “shadow” libraries circumvent digital barriers and redefine legality in contemporary Russia 2021-05-01T08:18:57-05:00 Bella Ostromooukhova <p>Shadow mass-literature online libraries in Russia developed during the early Post-Soviet years. They are a phenomenon rooted in both the practice of circumventing constraints caused by state censorship, and a book production process of insufficient quality. Since the fall of the USSR, Russian legislation has aligned itself with international standards, adopting their strictest instantiation. In 2013, “anti-piracy” legislation made “information intermediaries” responsible for illegal content, introduced an “eternal” blocking of sites, made pre-trial negotiations more difficult. Successive amendments have sought to respond to the circumvention tactics developed by shadow libraries. In this context, for a library which is not part of the book market, remaining in the legal realm means freezing its own content or becoming a self-publishing platform. Libraries that become illegal have to ensure the sustainability and growth of their collections by multiplying their dissemination means, to provide personal security to administrators through a “safe” geographical location or strict anonymity, and to guarantee an access to their collections on the Russian Federation territory through inventive circumvention techniques. They leave the public struggle against state and industry regulation of the Internet to digital rights advocates, and promote a particular vision of “freedom” anchored in the mastery of technical tools and in uncensored cultural practices.</p> 2021-04-28T15:13:09-05:00 Copyright (c) 2021 First Monday