back to article China and Russia join to battle 'illegal internet content,' which means what you fear it does

China and Russia will sign a joint treaty aimed to tackling “illegal internet content” later this month, the Russian telecoms regulator has announced. The signing will take place on October 20, the first day of annual internet governance conference that the Chinese government has run for several years in Wuzhen. Details are …

  1. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Coming soon to a country near you.

    Here in the States, I would expect a certain President to jump all over this as "fake news should be removed" justification.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Coming soon to a country near you.

      The BBC had a good programme recently, "Ian Hislop's Fake News: A True History".

      At one point this short, dumpy, middle-aged man had his face 'Deepfake''d onto the body of a young athletic dancer. It was for comedic effect to highlight the danger since he obviously can't dance like that.

      I showed that clip to my elderly mum who likes to think she is cynical and worldly, and she responded, "I can't believe he can dance like that!"

      Except she obviously did believe he danced like that.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uut4rPAv_PQ

  2. Nick Kew

    Could be useful for us in the West?

    Could this be useful for us, as a bogeyman to point to when our own politicians seek to restrict us?

    Especially if the Russians and Chinese cast focus on themes shared by the west, like "protecting the children ..." rhetoric.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Could be useful for us in the West?

      As I was reading the article, my brain kept replacing China and Russia with UK, EU and USA and was still making sense.

      The US have been projecting their laws and internet rules across the world for some time, as are the EU with GDPR and "right to be forgotten" extended world-wide so I'm not seeing any reall difference here other than "us and them", where "us" point at "them" as being wrong (where "us" and "them" can be read from either point of view)

      1. iron Silver badge

        Re: Could be useful for us in the West?

        I was going to give you an upvote, until you compared GDPR to Russian & Chinese internet censorship.

        1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: Could be useful for us in the West?

          At least Russia and China have the government take the burden of enforcing such draconian measures. With GDPR it's down to everyone else to do.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Could be useful for us in the West?

          "I was going to give you an upvote, until you compared GDPR to Russian & Chinese internet censorship."

          I wasn't. I was comparing extra-territorial reach of local laws.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Could be useful for us in the West?

        Lets make a simple comparison between China and the EU:

        - China tries to combine all social media content, workplace, medical, financial details and government information to create a "social score" that will dictate your position in society and whether you need any special attention from the authorities.

        - the EU tries to allow individuals to manage information held by third parties and remove unwanted information to avoid a "social score"-type system evolving past the currently independent financial/government/advertising/social/medical information towers

        Which would you prefer?

        1. Nick Kew

          Re: Could be useful for us in the West?

          Lets make a simple comparison between China and the EU

          That looks like no such thing to me.

          to create a "social score" ...

          Here that's more sophisticated. We call the basic social score a "credit rating". But then we also have a lot of additional demographic classification, based on family, education, work, postcode, etc.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Could be useful for us in the West?

            That looks like no such thing to me.

            As usual, this "simple" argument is actually simplistic.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Could be useful for us in the West?

            Re:China's social score

            While "credit rating" in western countries approximates how the envisioned "social score" in China, it doesn't have anywhere near the potential reach into private and public information that China are looking to implement. I'm not disputing the additional data for credit ratings exist - I am disputing that the dangers present in Chinas system a significantly greater.

            If we look at current trials, Alibaba/Tencent are combining their own data on social interactions and retail transactions with citizens financial details (via their associated banks) and signing contracts with regional governments to combine this information with existing government records about education, employment, health, criminal activities etc. Given the control that China likes to exert over its citizens lives, this data is likely to effect everything about a persons life, including their social interactions over time (i.e. associating with person X will result in a drop in your hard earned social score...)

            GPDR controlling how this type of data can be exchanged and providing methods for individuals to limit this in the EU. I accept it won't prevent it, but it will form one part in the defence against a consolidation of financial/health/insurance/retail/government data.

            Example ref: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/china-social-credit-system-explained

  3. revenant Silver badge

    Damned Authoritarian Governements

    Next thing you know they'll be demanding that their LEOs be given the ability to decrypt their citizens' private conversations.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Damned Authoritarian Governements

      Sadly, both already have. China has blocked pretty much every communication app under the sun. What remains has a direct phone home to a Chinese government-controlled set of servers, and of course no encryption. Russia has mandated the same in law, but because they have less technical capabilities, they haven't gotten it yet. However, they are actively blocking Telegram after it refused to assist the Russian government in decrypting users' messages.

      I know you were going for the "look at the west; they're bad too", but the western spy agencies are still trying to get the law to give them the power to demand companies assist them. Russia and China already have. I don't say this to support the surveillance systems supported by the west, but Russia and China are not being attacked by a hypocritical west; they're the disaster we are headed to.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They are just playing catch up.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Frankly, when it comes to censorship and surveillance, they're the leaders. Russia has now over 102 years of experience, and China learned a lot in seventy.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Russia has now over 102 years of experience

        By giving such an exact figure it's clear that you're thinking about the Russian Revolution as being some sort of turning point, but it wasn't. You can go back much further than the rise of Communism. The tsars also imposed political censorship, from at least Peter the Great's time, while in the centuries before that censorship was primarily a tool of religious orthodoxy.

        The same can be said for China under the warlords and the emperors. Censorship has been going on far, far longer than the days since the Long March.

  5. kmedcalf

    They are just jealous

    They are just jealous of the government sponsored censorship operations in place in the USA, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia and want to catch up.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: They are just jealous

      The fact that you are posting this, says very clearly that such operations are not in operation.

      Try posting something similar in China and see how long your post stays up. You can probably expect a knock on your door from some very unhappy people (that may be official law enforcement (if you're lucky) or not). In Russia, your post would probably stay up. But if someone reports it, you can expect the police to come knocking and charge you with I dont know insulting the government or something.

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: They are just jealous

        The fact that you are posting this, says very clearly that such operations are not in operation.

        "Free speech"; noun - Tolerating just enough that people will convince themselves and others it isn't a dictatorship.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They are just jealous

        Do you watch the news? It's just that 10 extinction rebellion protesters were just arrested before they even got chance to protest.

        Do you think they just got arrested on the off chance or could it be that all communications are monitored the same as in China or Russia?

        Sure you can post it and others can see it but that doesn't make you immune to a knock at the door at some point so we are just as bad if not worse for the fact we claim to be "free".

        We have also been a surveillance state for many many years from the miners to poll tax to environmental protesters, we even have secret police that infiltrate those groups. I understand this is an uncomfortable truth and people choose not to believe it but when you look at the facts it's true.

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: They are just jealous

      "They are just jealous of the government sponsored censorship operations in place in the USA, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia and want to catch up."

      Who posts such drivel, and who likes it? I mean, do you really think that the Chinese censorship effort is behind that of the UK, which almost exclusively focuses on child pornography and now copyright infringement?

      You think the West is bad. Fine. But just because China and Russia are not in the West does not make them Good. In fact, they are objectively worse.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They are just jealous

      "They are just OUT COMPETING the government sponsored SURVEILLANCE operations in place in the USA, Great Britain, New Zealand, CANADA and Australia and want to catch up."

      FTFY

      Surveillance is the monitoring of behaviour, activities, or information for the purpose of influencing, managing or directing.

      Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient".

      The vast majority of people in the USA, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia will never have their speech or communication censored. Extrapolating BT's stats for Cleanfeed, around 30-40 million web requests are blocked each year - a fraction of the total.

      1. Nick Kew

        Re: They are just jealous

        The vast majority of people in the USA, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia will never have their speech or communication censored.

        That at least is pure nonsense. People have been imprisoned for saying dumb things on twitter or for possessing the wrong book.

        Even here on El Reg (which tends more towards free speech than the average online forum), you might get censored if you post something Bad. They even have preemptive moderation in a few discussions - typically those on controversial topics like identity politics.

  6. sbt Silver badge
    Pirate

    A Silicon curtain is descending...

    Well, I guess we'll have to dig out the hams with their short wave packet radio thingies and it's back to the good old days of Lord Haw-Haw vs. Radio Free Europe. Inter-continental-ballistic podcasts.

    The cold war returns. Sheesh.

    Mr. Putin, tear down this firewall!

    1. Anomalous Cowshed

      Re: A Silicon curtain is descending...

      I was given a sweet recently whose wrapper has an engraving of Mr. Putin's countenance with the words "President of the Russian Federation" in English around it.

      1. sbt Silver badge
        Coat

        Make Russia Relevant Again

        Did it contain another wrapped sweet in the centre with Yeltsin on the wrapper? Or was is just hard on the outside, but lacking in internal substance?

        Was it salty? I guess the wording is technically correct, but I wouldn't be drawing attention to the rump status of the RF vs. the former USSR.

        It does seem like an odd thing to make a political souvenir. Usually it's mugs or spoons or letter-openers.

  7. Roml0k

    Satellite internet's a'comin

    Since Musk, Amazon, and others are planning on peppering global LEO with internet satellites, I don't care. I'm still free; you can't take the sky from me.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Satellite internet's a'comin

      Of course they can. And will, should such access become troublesome. Authoritarian governments will do whatever it takes to keep control. A few really obvious options:

      1) Blanket interference on the satellite bands. Collateral damage is inconsequential (to said gov's);

      2) Simply outlaw such connections, monitor for outbound transmissions in the relevant bands and nick anyone found using them;

      3) Show your loyalty to the supreme leader! Inform on your friends and family. Fabulous prizes to be won!

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Satellite internet's a'comin

      "you can't take the sky from me"

      Good luck with that when you're half a mile underground, working forced labour in a pitchblende mine, because you were arrested using an 'unChinese' (or 'anti-American' or whatever) satellite connection.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Satellite internet's a'comin

        You may be interested in the recent activities of Turkmenistan. The general idea is that, because of urban beauty reasons and definitely not because they wanted to censor, satellite dishes are completely illegal. And that is enforced; if you have such a dish, the police will come by and confiscate it. You will be fined or imprisoned. This applies to every dish; it's clear they're primarily trying to prevent reception of satellite television, but they'll take anything. That wasn't particularly difficult for them to do. That can happen anywhere.

        If you think the skies will be free, I'm going to need to see a receiver for satellite internet that can easily be used while remaining hidden and even more easily hidden should a censor come to call. So that will require the device to work indoors, without being obvious through a window, and collapse to a small enough device that it can be hidden inside something else. All existing dishes I've seen are quite expansive devices and need a very precise position, meaning that it wouldn't be all that easy to take it down and redeploy it twice a day. Can you show me such tech? If not, I believe you are badly mistaken in your optimism. Even if you can show me such tech, we've only solved the really obvious problems. Plenty more methods of censorship remain.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Satellite internet's a'comin

          I think you meant to reply to the person above me.

          Anyway, depending on the design of your house, and the materials that your roof is made of, you could put a receiving dish in your attic where it would be concealed from non-specific searches.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Satellite internet's a'comin

            I just meant to reply to the thread, not a specific post. And while you could put a dish there, it probably won't have the ability to contact the satellite without a very permeable roof. I haven't tested this, but I doubt many houses will allow for it. Of course, the installation of equipment is just one problem that needs to be solved before satellite comms work as anti-censorship gear.

  8. Bernard M. Orwell

    Where?

    " Western states that have long sought to protect the liberal information-sharing that the internet has traditionally embraced."

    Oh really? Where are those states then?

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Where?

      Well there's liberal and then there's "liberal". For decreasing values of "liberal" <cough>backdoorencryption<cough>

    2. Tom Paine Silver badge

      Re: Where?

      North America, Europe, and Australasia mainly (but not exclusively.)

      Next?

      1. Bernard M. Orwell

        Re: Where?

        North America has sold off net neutrality, the EU and the UK both have fairly draconic plans/rules surrounding the internet and its usage (no anonymity, censorship of sites, backdoor encryption, mass surveillance programs) and Australasia is neither a state nor in the west.

        ….hmm...yes...mebbe Iceland. That country looks more tempting by the day.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where?

      I'm thinking ... Iceland, maybe? I live in the United States, where "dissident" sites, blogs, social media accounts, and streaming video channels -- foreign and domestic, right-wing and left-wing, sectarian and secular -- are being de-linked, de-recommended, downranked, demonetized, and taken down outright at an alarmingly accelerating pace, so I know they can't be referring to my country. (But let me guess: this soft and hard censorship is being done by private corporations, to whom government has ceded the "public forum" of yore, so it doesn't count. I mean, there's no way that that arrangement constitutes a cardinal element of fascism, right?)

  9. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Putin puttin free speech back into the box

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Authoritarian regimes continue wrestling internet back into box

    oh, what a relief for us Brits, safe in the knowledge that our shepherd masters profess democracy rather than autocracy and protect us, and shear us with our full approval. Long live our shepherd masters! Long live democracy!

    Now, where's me useful idiot paycheck gospadin president?! I want my roubles, and I want them NOW!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As Shakespeare said ...

    There is nothing new under the sun.

    1. Adair

      Re: As Shakespeare said ...

      Actually, Ecclesiastes 1:9b I believe - somewhat earlier.

      And no doubt the idea was already very old when the Teacher decided to write that all down.

  12. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    Sharing is caring

    I wonder if the Chinese might start sharing their Great Firewall with others? Since they've got both the economic and technical capacity to run it. they could offer it to other countries. CaaS - or Censorship as a Service is the latest new buzzword in IT - you'll hear it from your management real soon now...

    Obviously there's a nice side-order of massive data for the Chinese intelligence services that comes with it - which might make it a hard sell. But on the other hand, very useful for the dictator on a budget.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Sharing is caring

      Man, I wish you were joking...

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Sharing is caring

        I'd not noticed this conference before. But it's the first logical outcome of countries getting together to cooperate in this way that came to mind. The Saudis have a firewall, I'm not sure how effective it is mind, but then they've got loadsamoney. Iran have the manpower, and possibly the knowhow, but I'm not sure they have the equipment budget. So I think they operate by disrupting domains they don't like at crucial times and playing games with routing. Russia have the knowhow but are short of cash - but it would probably be too embarrassing to take Chinese help.

        It's not like it's easy, as it means routing via China or building outposts of the Great Firewall around the world - but I bet it's nor impossible either.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Better egress filtering

    If they're going to filter what their citizens can do online I wish they could at least do better egress filtering on their "great firewall"! They don't want their people viewing certain sites, but if they want to try hacking into our servers they're clearly free to do so. Probably 90% of the LFD block notifications I get are from Chinese IPs trying to brute force their way into accounts on our servers (and that's even with many of their IP ranges already being permanently blocked).

  14. Uncle Ron

    Dark

    Soon, these countries will once again go dark, much as they were dark up until about the late 1980's. Their people will again be locked out of knowing anything about the "West" and to us they will once again be like Mars. This movement MUST be condemned by us and fought against. Sadly, our current leadership (and even some of our citizens) is not only clueless, but beholden to Moscow, and likely would love to implement the same kind of censorship. We're screwed if we don't get rid of these people.

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