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"Prism On Steroids" At The Russian Olympics

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, January 28 2014

Beefing up surveillance (Jedimentat44/Flickr)

New Internet legislation in Russia is scheduled to go into effect on February 1, just one week before the XXII Winter Olympics Games begin in Sochi. Less than a year after Russia outlawed “homosexual propaganda” online (or off), it has now set its sights on the use of social media platforms to organize protests. Starting in February, Internet providers can be ordered to block sites if someone tries to organize “participation in mass public events.”

“Telecommunications authorities,” Internet expert Alexej Sidorenko explained to Deutsche Welle, “will be entitled to order the blocking of that network throughout the country unless the provider deletes the offending comments.”

They are also beefing up their System for Operative Investigative Activities, or SORM, which Ron Deibert, a professor at the University of Toronto and director of Citizen Lab, described as “Prism on steroids.”

A Guardian article last October described the upgrades being put into place before the Games:

The Sorm system is being modernised across Russia, but particular attention has been paid to Sochi given the large number of foreign visitors expected next year. Technical specifications set out by the Russian state telecoms agency also show that a controversial technology known as deep packet inspection, which allows intelligence agencies to filter users by particular keywords, is being installed across Russia's networks, and is required to be compatible with the Sorm system.

"For example you can use the keyword Navalny, and work out which people in a particular region are using the word Navalny," says [journalist Andrei] Soldatov, referring to Alexei Navalny, Russia's best-known opposition politician. "Then, those people can be tracked further."

In advance of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China “relaxed” their Internet censorship, but only for international journalists and other visitors. Olympic officials failed to acquire “fully unfettered access.”

Strangely, a ban on protests during the Sochi Games has actually been relaxed. You just can't talk about them on Twitter.

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