Internet Access with Passport Identification: Limitation of Human Rights or Russian “Protection”

June 30, 2023
For several years, Russia has worked on entering Internet access with passport identification.

There are discussions in Russia on entering Internet access with passport identification. Russia's officials debate on how to make access to the Internet more controlled, which obviously restricts human rights.

Since 2019, there have been ongoing discussions in Russia concerning access to the Internet with passport identifications. This comes after the Russian Association "Avanti" submitted to Russia's Duma and Council of Federation a proposal to implement mandatory passport registration for Internet access.

Initially, Russian politicians reacted cautiously to the idea. For instance, Putin's spokesperson Peskov called it censorship and a violation of human rights.

Deputy of the Committee on information policy Sventsov had previously expressed his willingness to initiate a discussion, asking for citizens' feedback. He added that recently there have been numerous incidents of Internet fraud documented.

The concern around human rights lasted mere several months, and on November 1, the Law on the so-called Sovereign Runet, which foresaw the control of all Internet with the aim of protecting the Russian Internet from external threats, was adopted. Despite the immense desire to control the internal Internet space, Russia lacks the necessary tools and mechanisms to implement it in a practical dimension.

But desire, albeit slowly, grew and in October 2020, Putin announced that Russia would create its own scheme of Internet regulation, similar to that of China or the EU, to protect human rights.

Obviously, Putin and his circle of elites have a good tradition of conflating the meanings of "protection" and "controlling," which have never been the strongest aspects of Russia's state policy. This, therefore, was one of the reasons for the implementation of such initiatives.

Only in June 2023, a new wave of discussions was provoked by Sventsov, who stated how the Duma, specialists from MGU, and Russia's Ministry of Information were working on developing a mechanism that would allow Internet access only after passport registration.

In this regard, the Head of the Committee on information policy, Chinshtein, was opposed to such initiatives, naming his colleagues' statements as populist.

Russian media, such as compares such limited and controlled Internet access to North Korea. Furthermore, it writes that the Russian security services would have access to users' personal data. 

In this respect, also highlights that "Russians are under the thumb".

Nevertheless, difficulties, mainly the lack of specific types of equipment, prevent Russia from expediting the implementation of its protection mechanism.

Evidently, Russia uses modern technology to maintain control over all users and thus the internet is turning into a tool of neo-authoritarian domination and control, instead of communication and exchange.

Maryna Yakymchuk
Analyst of Internews Ukraine