Nov 21, 2019

Russia and China get a big win on internet "sovereignty"

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin. Photo: Pavel Golovkin/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The United Nations adopted an anti-cybercrime pact backed by China, North Korea and Russia Monday, against the wishes of U.S. and pro-civil liberty groups.

The big picture: For years, the United States has squared off with more repressive nations over global internet norms. The U.S. wants countries to offer citizens maximal access to the global internet, while Russia and others argue that countries should have "internet sovereignty" to block websites critical of governments and to punish online dissidents.

Why it matters: The UN resolution could give more legitimacy to the "internet sovereignty" crowd.

Driving the news: The resolution, which passed 88-58 with 34 abstentions, sets up a working group to examine global cybercrime prevention.

  • Critics say the pact provides a veneer of legitimacy for the sovereignty concept while allowing governments to shut off cross-border data access as a tool of oppression or to censor websites when used for "criminal purposes," without defining what those criminal purposes are.

All this comes as Russia prepares to test whether domestic networks could survive detaching the nation from the global internet in an apparent attempt to set up a China-style internet filtering system.

  • "Russia is hoping the resolution will mean that they will more easily be able to shut down the internet," said Kasey Stricklin, a Russia analyst for CNA consulting. "All of this is them hoping the UN will rubber-stamp those activities."

Losing U.S. leadership on internet could be a symptom of the United States' greater abdication of global leadership to countries like China and Russia, who are expanding their spheres of influence in Africa and the Middle East just as the U.S. is abandoning those regions.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Putin signs law making Russian software mandatory on consumer electronics

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin enacted legislation on Monday that requires all consumer electronics sold in the country, including smartphones, laptops and smart TVs, to come pre-installed with Russian software, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Electronics retailers, including Apple, Samsung and Huawei, have criticized the law, claiming the government adopted the legislation without consulting them.

Go deeperArrowDec 2, 2019

Iran cuts internet during, and after, protests

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

As protests over gas prices erupted last weekend, Iranian officials cut the nation's access to the internet. On Wednesday, according to state media, the government declared victory over the protests. Yet the internet has only begun to trickle back online.

Why it matters: Keeping the internet off prevented global reporting of police abuses and prevents domestic coordination between protestors, Adrian Shahbaz of the human rights group Freedom House told Axios.

Go deeperArrowNov 21, 2019

Podcast: Iran's internet blackout

The Iranian government responded to gas price protests by shutting down the country's internet for a week. Dan digs in with Norman Roule, a 34-year CIA veteran who previously oversaw U.S. national intelligence policy and activities related to Iran.

Go deeper: Iran cuts internet during, and after, protests

Keep ReadingArrowNov 26, 2019