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The Great Firewall of Russia

The traditional view of security that was borne out of the Cold War can be best summed up by Walt : “the threat, use, and control of military force”. In other words, the referent object of security is the state and issues of concern are of nuclear and military nature. However, in the 1990s, a more inclusive view of security came about – human security. Human security is where the referent object of security is the individual, hence, it can be applied to large areas of everyday life. The concept arose from the UNDP 1994 Human Development Report which represents human security as including economic, food, health, environmental, community, personal and political needs. The question that many people find themselves asking is: what type of security is most important?

Russian lawmakers have approved a bill that allows the government to cut access to foreign servers. This has been a reaction to concern that Russian relations with the West could decline to such an extent that Russia is cut off from the global internet; many argue that the White House’s criticism of Russia in its Cyber Security Strategy implies this will happen. Therefore, the bill was passed by 350 votes to 15 and legislation is expected to come into force on 1 November 2019. This legislation is designed to route web traffic through filters controlled by the state communications watchdog, increasing its power to control information and block messaging or applications. Additionally, it allows Russia to create their own system of domain names in order to allow the internet to operate within Russia even if it was cut off from the global web. This has been justified in terms of national (state) security; the Kremlin states that this is necessary to prevent the threat of terrorism and cyber-attacks.

However, critics of the legislation are comparing it to China’s Great Firewall. There has been two censorship bills passed: one that bans fake news and one that makes it illegal to insult public officials. If one publishes ‘unreliable socially significant information’ they can face fines up to 1.5 million ruble ($23,000). If one publishes material online that shows ‘clear disrespect for society, the state, the official state symbols of the Russian Federation, and bodies exercising state power’ they can face jail time and fines. Insults against Putin himself can result in fines up to 300,000 ruble ($4700) and 15 days in jail. The first guilty verdict under this new disrespect law was a local citizen that lived near Moscow; he was fined 30,000 ruble ($470) for calling Putin “a fantastical f***head”. Due to these new legislations, thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest against the implementation of these new laws as they are a violation of their human security, demonstrating their dedication to being able to practise free speech.

UNHS is undertaking a project called ‘Secure Scotland’ that highlights that human security is of most importance rather than state security. In many states, people’s civil liberties are being eroded in the name of national security. Secure Scotland aims to re-conceptualise the concept of security, challenging the existing state-centric model, favoured by the political elite, where armies and weaponry are utilised to combat perceived security threats. Consequently, the Secure Scotland Project aims to understand what makes individuals feel secure in their daily lives; build a collective vision of security, challenge the dominant narrative by examining existing constraints and exploring actions for future change.

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