On October 20–23, the I All-Russian Youth Internet Security School took place at the Malyushina Dacha countryside complex. It brought together more than 100 students from 35 Russia’s regions, Belarus, Armenia, and Moldova. The school allowed to establish a constructive dialogue on ensuring safety in the digital space between interested students and the most prominent experts of state bodies, domestic IT companies, scientific and educational organizations, and public institutions.
The school was organized by the Youth Digital Ombudsman’s team and Kutafin Moscow State Law University (MSAL) with the support of the Alliance for the Protection of Children in the Digital Environment as part of the strategic academic leadership program “Priority 2030.” The VK company, the ComNews group of companies, and TAdviser, a Russian web portal, joined the event as media partners.
The grand opening of the new federal youth expert platform took place on October 21. Youth Digital Ombudsman and Director of the Center for Young People’s Rights in the Digital Space of Kutafin University (MSAL) Dmitry Gulyaev greeted the school’s guests and participants and announced the establishment of the Youth Digital Ombudsman’s annual award, “Digitalization for Good,” which will be presented at the editions of the Youth Internet Governance Forum for outstanding achievements in protection of children and youth’s rights in the digital environment.
Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Chernyshenko gave a welcome address to participants.
“Learn to counteract cyber threats and create safe technologies and content. Perhaps it will be you who creates new international norms of responsible and ethical behavior in the digital environment,” the deputy prime minister stressed.
The school was officially opened by Victor Blazheev, Rector of Kutafin University (MSAL) and Honored Lawyer of the Russian Federation. The panel discussion on “New Challenges of the Information Space: How to Stay Safe” was the school’s first expert event.
It was joined by the following experts: Head of the Presidential Directorate for the Development of Information and Communication Technology and Communication Infrastructure Tatyana Matveeva; Deputy Head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) Milos Vagner; First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Education Maxim Gulin; Rector of Kutafin University (MSAL) Victor Blazheev; and Chairperson of the Alliance for the Protection of Children in the Digital Environment Elizaveta Belyakova. The discussion was moderated by Youth Digital Ombudsman Dmitry Gulyaev.
Tatyana Matveeva spoke on the challenges of the information space that are most relevant for young people today and recommended that participants not be impulsive and critically evaluate information: “Cyberbullying, canceling [cancel culture - Ed.], and all kinds of psychological and information violence on the Internet intensify against a background of the current foreign policy situation.”
Victor Blazheev covered the question of competencies that young people should have in order to modernize old solutions for counteracting pressing digital space threats and create new solutions; he also stressed that there is a lot be instilled while kids are in school. Maxim Gulin supported this thesis and stated that the Internet Security School is precisely the institution that can and should teach media literacy, and it is young specialists and students receiving higher education who should participate in the project, since they are able to present information to kids in an understandable manner.
Milos Vagner spoke on the ways in which Roskomnadzor officials and the team of the Center for Legal Assistance to Citizens in the Digital Environment help people; he invited participants to gain relevant work experience in citizens’ appeals processing and find out what kinds of situations citizens find themselves in, how to avoid such situations and what to do if someone is already dealing with them.
In concluding the panel discussion, Elizaveta Belyakova stressed the importance and relevance of self-regulation IT-related institutions that call for additional voluntary commitments to be made by domestic companies.
The panel discussion was followed up by a visionary lecture titled “Digital Professions: What Does the Industry Need?” and held by Anton Ivanov, head of the research and development department at Kaspersky Lab; participants of the lecture recognized its importance and strategic orientation.
The first day of the school was primarily dedicated to educational activities, which included 12 lectures/workshops allowing participants to immediately consolidate the knowledge they have just gained, putting it into practice via an interactive format. Experts of Kaspersky Lab, Kutafin University (MSAL), the InfoWatch company, Center for Global IT-Cooperation, Institute of Legislation and Comparative Law under the Government of the Russian Federation, and CyberMoscow spoke at educational sessions. The experts covered the basics of information security, the concept of cyber immunity, means of counteracting verbal aggression online, new types of fraud, cyberstalking, manipulation of information flows in the interests of transnational IT giants, digital profiling, etc.
For example, at the lecture/workshop titled “Verbal Aggression on Social Media: How to Avoid Falling into the Trap of (Auto) Destructive Online Communities,” Vladimir Nikishin, PhD in Law and Associate Professor of the Forensic Expertise Department of Kutafin University (MSAL), paid particular attention to the problem of destructive mass culture affecting youth via social media in an uncontrolled manner, the corresponding distortion of the young audience’s ideological attitudes, the problem of romanticizing and glorifying violent and aggressive behavior as well as the means of identifying and counteracting such influence.
The lecture/workshop titled “‘We Know Everything!’: How Not to Fall Victim to Cyberstalking?” and held by Vladimir Chebyshev, lead mobile malware specialist at Kaspersky Lab, provided participants with insights into the nature and signs of cyberstalking as well as its dangerous social implications. Special attention was paid to the technical aspects of unlawful surveillance of Internet users and ways to protect oneself against it.
Konstantin Bogatyrev, junior researcher at the Center for Legal Expertise in the Sphere of Counteracting the Ideology of Terrorism and Prevention of Extremism of Kutafin University (MSAL), covered the main characteristics of the digital media environment as a communication space and threats to media security at the “Countering Information Threats in the Digital Media Environment as Part of Ensuring Russia’s National Security” lecture/workshop.
Yuri Lindre, expert in international legal matters at ANO Center for Global IT-Cooperation, held a lecture/workshop titled “Fragmentation of the Global Internet and Manipulation of Information Flows in the Interests of Transnational IT Giants: Risks and Threats.” He spoke on the main trends in Internet development and regulation in Russia and worldwide. Special emphasis was placed on the techniques of targeted influence on people’s minds used in the interests of digital platforms; the means of identifying such influence and protecting people from external manipulation were covered as well.
The advancement of digital reality partially results in taking fraud to a whole new level. During the lecture/workshop on “New Types of Fraud: How to Protect Oneself in the Changing Digital Environment,” Denis Teplyakov, head of endpoint business development at Kaspersky Lab, helped participants to gain greater understanding of the types of fraud committed in the digital environment and common fraud schemes by analyzing technologies used by attackers.
The lecture/workshop titled “What Aspects of Information Security Should Be Considered When Developing a Software?” aimed to acquaint participants with information security nuances of the development of in-house IT products, give them a better understanding of the information security challenges that modern developers are facing and the ways to reduce future risks at the software development stage. The session was held by Yakov Goldfarb, head of IT projects and individual entrepreneur.
The learning day of the school concluded with a private screening of “It’s No Big Deal,” a VK interactive youth series based on true stories told by victims of bullying and the findings of studies on different types of bullying. Viewers were able to choose the way the character would act in a given situation, which changed the course of subsequent events. The private screening was moderated by Natalia Geraskina, member of the Youth Digital Ombudsman’s team. The second day of the school was dedicated to project-based activities and can be best remembered for two Open Space discussions and eight project modules.
The day began with an Open Space discussion on “The Role of Creative Approach in Generating Positive Content in the Field of Internet Security.” Top media experts, such as Ekaterina Kirillova, head of production at 5TV; Program Director at Detskoe Radio Viktor Privorotsky; Vadim Zhukov, head of development of school communities at VK; Yulia Dubinina, mentor of the TopBLOG project of the Russia—Land of Opportunity platform, mediator and lawyer; and Anastasia Sladkova, member of the Union of Lawyers and Bloggers, participated in the discussion. The session was moderated by Elena Grin, head of the Legal Education of Citizens project of the All-Russia People’s Front, Chairperson of the Union of Lawyers and Bloggers, and deputy head of the Department of Intellectual Rights at Kutafin University (MSAL).
Ekaterina Kirillova explained what is meant by positive content: “It’s a kind of content that makes a positive change in a person’s life and, by raising social issues, makes the world change for the better.”
Elena Grin elaborated on the topic by sharing her personal blogging experience. She emphasized how huge the number of opportunities that social platforms give people is. Vadim Zhukov embraced the topic, adding that, when it comes to social networks, it’s not just about entertainment; it’s also about education, among other things. Social networks make it possible to promote educational initiatives.
Viktor Privorotsky elaborated on the topic by speaking on the ways to effectively convey information to a given audience as well as the methods and techniques that can be used for that purpose.
The topic of the Open Space discussion was later explored in project modules as well. For example, in the module on “The Basics of Personal Brand Security on the Internet. A course toward IP,” Elena Grin and Yulia Dubinina spoke on the process of building a personal brand and legal ways to protect oneself against threats emerging in the digital environment. As a result, participants in the module created personal brand online protection checklists.
Participants in the school’s project module on “Socially Significant Video Content. How Can It Be Created?” examined in more detail successful examples of positive video content creation and popularization. Ekaterina Kirillova spoke at length about the steps in creating socially significant content, from setting an agenda and writing a script to mass content dissemination on digital platforms. By the end of the module, participants wrote short scripts of topical public service announcement videos on information security. The scripts covering teenage self-doubt and kidnapping were recognized as the best works.
In the project module on “How to Talk to Your Target Audience in the Right and Interesting Way,” Viktor Privorotsky spoke on effective ways to communicate with young people and make audio content engaging and interesting to the target audience as well. Participants in the module practiced in writing fairy tales that could provide children with digital literacy skills. Those participants who wrote the best fairy tale recorded it with a Detskoe Radio sound engineer on the same day.
Social media tools, including algorithms, that allow to promote socially significant positive copyrighted content were covered in more detail by Vadim Zhukov in a project module on “Social Media Toolkit for the Creation and Popularization of Positive Content,” in which participants were invited to check out features of the VK platform, create their own community and shoot a promotional video for it.
In the latter part of the project day, directions of digitalization of education, awareness-raising activities and business as well as the ways to support youth IT initiatives were covered in an Open Space discussion titled “Keeping Abreast of Technology Trends.” Among the experts who joined the discussion were Alfiya Gafurova, head of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at Gazprom-Media Holding; Maria Kuznetsova, head of commercial projects of the Data Fusion practice of the Digital Economy League; and Dmitry Gulyaev, Youth Digital Ombudsman and Director of the Center for Young People’s Rights in the Digital Space of Kutafin University (MSAL). The discussion was moderated by Maria Mazhorina, vice-rector for strategic and international development at Kutafin University (MSAL).
The moderator covered a set of technology trends and spoke on the effect they have on the educational system and self-education, stressing the importance of developing project work skills.
Alfiya Gafurova supported that thesis, while also emphasizing the need to recognize that it is people who should be the focus of interest for companies.
Maria Kuznetsova elaborated on the discussion topic by describing how to create an IT product that would adhere to the social mandate and be profitable at the same time. She recommended that participants draw solutions from the very problems: “Any idea that solves a pressing problem is gold. Do not be afraid to search and to look into the most basic problems, and you will definitely succeed.”
Dmitry Gulyaev paid particular attention to the methods of and techniques for conveying information to children and youth. The Open Space discussion segued into the next block of project modules.
In the project module on “Technologization in the Modern Educational Process: Global and Domestic Trends,” representatives of Kutafin University (MSAL) — Maria Mazhorina, Maria Samsonova, and Oksana Savenko — as well as Polina Tumanova, member of the Youth Digital Ombudsman’s team, spoke on innovations in education. By the end of the module’s project activities, the concept of a digital product aimed at ensuring the rights of students from Russia was developed.
In the project module Alfiya Gafurova described popular social projects, the tools used to promote them and possible technological performance metrics. As a practical assignment, participants created their own social projects on digital security. The participant who proposed a project on “PC Games for Fun” won the contest.
Maria Kuznetsova conducted a project module on “Bringing an IT Product to the Market: How to Diagnose, and What to Do after the Launch.” Participants in the module proposed to design Pocket Doctor—a smart watch that allows to instantly upload health information to the patient’s medical record and provide the attending physician with direct access to the record.
In the YDO’s project module Dmitry Gulyaev and Anna Pokrovskaya, member of his team, talked to students about self-regulation of the digital environment and the rising importance of developing digital ethics. As a practical assignment, participants in the module created a code of ethics and behavior for young people in the digital environment with a view to popularizing it later in the digital space. It is planned to set up a working group in the near future in order to finalize and further develop the product.
It is to be recalled that in April 2022, the Youth Digital Ombudsman’s team organized a youth expert dialogue platform titled “Communication on the Internet: The Line between Self-Expression and Violation of Laws” at the IX Moscow Legal Forum. The expert community encouraged the ombudsman’s team to initiate the development of such self-regulation act for children and youth; that proposal was addressed at the Internet Security School.
The program concluded with evening activities. Not only were participants able to spend their time in a productive way, but they also engaged in a fruitful dialogue with like-minded people. At the general meeting, participants acknowledged the high degree of professionalism of organizers, the richness of the program, how interesting the speakers’ presentations were, and made some suggestions for improvement of the school. At the initiative of participants, the next edition of the school will be held under a new name, International Youth Internet Security School “Digital Leap.” The school’s motto will be “As long as the Internet changes us, we can change the Internet.”
On October 23, the closing ceremony of the I All-Russian Youth Internet Security School was held. Participants were able to present the projects designed in the project modules to members of the Expert Commission and receive suggestions for further improvement, implementation, and promotion of the projects. Some of them are planned to be implemented jointly with the Youth Digital Ombudsman’s team. A total of 10 projects were presented, each unique in its own way.
The I All-Russian Youth Internet Security School is a pilot federal project that brought together young and talented people interested, firstly, in developing cross-cutting competencies and skills in the field of ensuring security in the digital environment, and secondly, in increasing digital and legal literacy.
The school became an innovative venue for discussions of the goals of and outlook for the evolution of the domestic IT industry; the thematic sessions held at the event provided a memorable experience for participants. The project should without doubt be continued.