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Internet Freedom 2019: The ‘Fortress’ Plan

Agora International Human Rights Group and the public organisation RosKomSvoboda presents report Internet Freedom 2019: The ‘Fortress’ Plan.

Internet Freedom 2019: The ‘Fortress’ Plan
Internet Freedom 2019: The ‘Fortress’ Plan

The central topic of this report — drawn up by the International Human Rights Group Agora and the public organisation RosKomSvoboda — is the interference in the freedom of the Internet in Russia during 2019. This high-level overview is based on the results from the monitoring which we have been conducting on a regular basis since 2008. 

In 2019 we identified 438,981 instances of interference with freedom of the Internet in Russia, the overwhelming majority of which (434,275), similar to previous reporting periods, relate to restriction of access to websites and web services, or to prohibition of information on various grounds. 

There has been a slight increase of the number of Federation entities where users experienced serious pressure: 43 regions fell in the ‘red zone’ in 2019 (against 41 in 2018). 

Serious impairment of the situation was observed in the regions of Archangelsk, Volgograd, Kaliningrad, Kurgan, Leningrad, Murmansk, Novosibirsk, Rostov, Samara, Saratov and Tambov as well as Bashkortostan, Ingushetia, Karelia, Mordovia, Northern Ossetia and Udmurtia. In these regions, the overall number of incidents rose by more than 4 times compared to 2018 and included use of violence against journalists/bloggers or imprisonment sentences for Internet activity. 

A relative improvement of the situation was observed in Komi, Khakasia, Chuvasia, Krasnodar and Krasnoyarsk territories, in the regions of Kaluga, Kirov, Pskov, Ryazan, Sakhalin, Smolensk, and in the autonomous circuits of Khanty-Mansiysk and Yamalo-Nenetsk. The number of registered incidents in these regions decreased and instances of violence or imprisonment were not reported. 

The past year saw a major decrease of criminal prosecution related to Internet activity — the number of cases dropped down to 200 incidents from 384 in 2018. However, there was a marginal decrease in the number of sentences to effective imprisonment (from 45 to 38), which in our opinion indicates that repressions are now more differentiated and law enforcement practices are being accommodated to the changing situation. 

The authors also note new trends that have developed in 2019. First of all, this is the further spread of the practice of regional and local politically motivated Internet shutdowns and increased pressure on the IT business and software developers. It was found, in particular, in several criminal cases against Internet entrepreneurs, as well as the first in Runet history act of censorship of a computer game.

After much wavering in the past years, the authorities have finally defined the main vector of their policy in respect of the Russian segment of the Internet — control, censorship and isolation. Initial references to internal and external threats can be found in the Information Safety Doctrine adopted in 2016. The follow-up actions were aimed at delivering this task, the ultimate objective of which is the creation of a sovereign Internet of Chinese/North Korean style. The year 2019 saw the adoption of key legislation which enables the achievement of this objective. 

The main intrigue now is whether the authorities will be able to walk the talk. 


Interactive map of digital freedom violations — here.


Documents for download

Internet Freedom 2019: The ‘Fortress’ Plan (en) download (0.51 Mb)



Internet Freedom 2019: The ‘Fortress’ Plan 02.03.2020 Agora International Human Rights Group and the public organisation RosKomSvoboda presents report Internet Freedom 2019: The ‘Fortress’ Plan.

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More than 50 lawyers work for Agora International Human Rights Group
Vitaliy Cherkasov
Vitaliy Cherkasov
Lawyer, St. Petersburg
Natasha Dobreva
Lawyer, Sofia (Bulgaria)
Andrey  Lepehin
Andrey Lepehin
Lawyer, Chelyabinsk
Andrey Sabinin
Lawyer, Stavropol
Rushana Kamalova
Rushana Kamalova
Lawyer, Kazan

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