Russia has no ambitions for digital dictatorship

Russia has no ambitions for digital dictatorship

Maria Zakharova, Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Alexey Pushkov, Chairman of the Federation Council Commission on Information Policy and Interaction with Mass Media, Alexander Khinstein, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technologies and Communications, pranksters Vovan and Lexus, Igor Ashmanov, General Director of Cribrum, Igor Lyapunov, General Director of Rostelecom-Solar, and Igor Kozlov, Director of the Center for Globalization took part in the discussion. The session was moderated by Alexander Malkevich, a member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation and the general director of the St. Petersburg TV channel.  

The politics of exclusivity and privilege pursued by the West in the name of a "rules-based world order" is also projected onto the global digital space, condemning it to inevitable fragmentation. In Washington's information aggression against Russia, American Internet giants are becoming obedient tools. Whether we can resist the digital dictatorship imposed by the West, how to avoid becoming a digital colony of the United States and its satellites, and how to strengthen our digital sovereignty - these and other questions were addressed by the speakers during the discussion. 

"I do not believe that a complete digital dictatorship has been established in the world, but the fact that certain forces are trying to establish it is a fact," began Alexey Pushkov's speech. As a negative example, the senator cited the state of Myanmar, which has completely fenced off the digital world, but nothing good has come of it. According to him, Russia is not going to choose this path, and it is necessary for Moscow to create an adequate response system instead of alienating itself from the world. It should be built on three principles: consistency, competitiveness and independence. The first is consistent work to protect its information space, the second is openness to foreign sources, and the third is its own regulation of the space, such as national taxation of foreign Internet companies operating in Russia. At the end of his speech, the senator suggested the creation of an English-language digital platform in Russia to help Russia interact with the outside world in a language it understands and to convey the country's position on many issues. 

Maria Zakharova believes that the concept of "digital sovereignty" should be enshrined at the state level, as it is an integral part of Russia's national security. It is not just about mobile data protection, it is also about hardware and software protection. Given that most of the Internet giants are Western companies, this is a critical area for state interests. "Taking advantage of the fact that the main levers of control over the Internet are located there - and all the major IT monopolies are registered in the jurisdiction of unfriendly countries, primarily the United States - Washington has sanctioned the processes whose logical conclusion should be the same global digital dictatorship.  This means that states will lose their sovereign capacity to act in the digital environment. It is simply the loss of control over the processes that take place first in the digital environment and then in all the other environments," she concluded. 

The term "digital sovereignty" is often used to refer to China's actions in the digital realm, including cutting off from the global Internet. However, this is not the way Russia needs, according to State Duma deputy Alexander Khinstein. "It is possible from a technological standpoint. Technologically speaking, anybody can now throw themselves off the fifth floor of a building. That doesn't mean we'll throw ourselves away now. Abstracting the Russian Internet is not going to happen," he said. “We have to put in place certain mechanisms to ensure the safety and security of everyone who uses the digital environment,” he added. There is a need for protection from fraudsters, as well as protection from various forms of information countermeasures and the dissemination of "fakes". 

Igor Ashmanov once again reminded the audience that everyone needs to understand that there will be no old world and everything, including digital interaction, will have to be rebuilt from scratch. "We don't need a digital dictatorship, we need a digital environment where there is respect for the rights and interests of our citizens. There needs to be a digital ceasefire to get us to an agreement about how this works and to respect the interests of the global majority," he proposed. 

In turn, Vadim Gluschenko noted that the world is now actively developing a legal framework to limit the hegemony of Western IT giants, as they have a complete monopoly on the digital space. But simply kicking them out is not an option, as it can affect the well-being of citizens and the economy of some countries, so countries are trying to hold companies accountable through legislation. As an example, he cited the European Union, which, in addition to the high-profile GDPR, has recently passed several other important pieces of legislation, such as the DSA (Digital Service Act). And if a violation of the former can only cost a company billions of dollars in fines, a violation of the DSA can result in a fine of up to 6% of annual revenues and even a restriction on operating the platform in the EU. At the intergovernmental level, the Global Digital Compact is being developed under the auspices of the United Nations, and the organization's Secretary General, Antonio Gutteres, recently spoke out forcefully against the politics of disinformation on digital platforms. 

SPIEF-2023 will be held June 14-17 in St. Petersburg. The main audience of the Forum are heads of large Russian and foreign companies, heads of state and political leaders, prime ministers, deputy prime ministers, ministers and governors.  Over the years, the Forum has become the world's leading platform for communication between business representatives and discussion of the key economic issues facing Russia, emerging markets and the world as a whole. This year, 17,000 people from 130 countries and territories have said they plan to participate.