The mass unrest that destabilized a some Mideast nations in the spring of 2011 was the first real-life demonstration of how powerful a tool the Internet can be in terms of influencing the internal affairs of a sovereign state. Social networks and blog platforms proved a highly efficient means for dispersing information and dispatching voluntary protesters in order to stage rallies and even riots. The American political elite were quick to recognize the new opportunity and use it.
On 16 May 2011, the US administration published a new document on its official website titled The US International Strategy for Cyberspace. The document laid out guidelines for American diplomacy in shaping a US-friendly global media environment using cyber technologies. In essence, the policy document outlined Washington’s new doctrine of media intervention, which emphasizes the Internet as a key component for shaping perceptions worldwide and manipulating global public opinion.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked in a public address on 18 May 2011: “Freedom of the Internet is an important priority for us. We want to ensure better protection for privacy through common efforts, and secure the basic freedoms of expression, association and assembly everywhere, including online.”Furthermore, Mrs. Clinton stressed this priority as a new foreign policy imperative for the US Department of State.
To that end, a special Cyber-security Office was created within the US National Security Staff, headed by a specially-appointed Cyber-security Coordinator, former NSS official Chris Painter.
The new doctrine was tested in Moscow last December, when Facebook, a US-based social network, was actively employed while summoning Russia’s dissenters to rallies in the wake of a parliamentary election. So-called “Team Facebook” essentially distributed appeals to support the opposition in staging anti-government protests in Russian cities. It was by no means accidental that social networks became the main means for preparing and publicizing opposition rallies, with tens of thousands of people manifesting their intention to participate in the protests. Quite tellingly, 70 per cent of them happened to be Facebook users.
It deserves a mention that the Internet was originally conceived and developed in the United States. Its precursor was ARPANET, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network developed by the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The punch-line is that the technical facilities for running the Internet are still located in the US – and not just on American territory, but actually under the supervision of US government agencies. The latter are deeply reluctant to hand over this function to any other authority, despite numerous proposals for transferring control of the Internet to the United Nations, tabled at various international meetings by a number of countries including Russia.
The US International Strategy for Cyberspace contains another potentially destructive statement, namely America’s obligation to ensure Internet freedom by creating and maintaining “reliable, safe and secured platforms to ensure freedom of expression and association” for opposition movements in any given country. In plain language, this is an initiative for setting up a parallel Internet, which would be off-limits for any national government except the United States. It is envisaged that users around the globe would be provided access to this “shadownet,” bypassing national provider companies, and thereby exempting data exchange between a user and Washington from any unwanted oversight. The “shadownet” would mark a new stage in the United States’ strategic plan for penetrating the cyberspace and telecom environment of other countries worldwide.
Moreover, the US government intends to issue a “blacklist” of nations that allegedly restrict Internet access for their residents, and subsequently ban US-based telecom companies from doing business with these governments. This is just one of the proposals put forward in a bill titled Promoting Global Internet Freedom, which is currently being debated in US Congress. The Russian Foreign Ministry has already expressed its concern over the draft legislation, denouncing it as “undemocratic.” By advocating unrestrained freedom in the Worldwide Web in its rhetoric, the US is essentially appointing itself a global judge, denying other national governments their right to national legal sovereignty in cyberspace.
To counter the implications of the American bill, Russia, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have jointly approached the UN General Assembly with a draft resolution titled Rules of Conduct for Ensuring International Cyber-security. These rules provide for respecting national sovereignty, territorial integrity and the political independence of all nations, as well as establishing a multilateral, transparent and democratic mechanism for managing the Internet.
The initiative, however, was blocked by the US delegation.
I am confident that Russia ought to take expedient political and diplomatic measures to protect its national sovereignty in cyberspace from American intervention.
Prof. Igor Panarin, Doctor of Political Sciences,
- Supremacy in cyberspace: New strategy by US (rt.com)
- 2012: The Year of the New gTLD Program and the Year to Support ICANN – Part I (circleid.com)
- UK, US talk tough on web freedom at cyber talks – Reuters India (news.google.com)
- Globalists Using London Cyberspace Summit to Push for Global Internet Treaty (gunnyg.wordpress.com)