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Russia and China to sign internet censorship treaty

China's President Xi Jinping, shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin. (Mikhail Metzel/Tass/Abaca Press/TNS)
October 11, 2019

Russia and China are set to sign an agreement for cooperation in censoring illicit internet activity, according to a new report on Tuesday.

The latest agreement, which Russia is set to sign on Oct 20, shows a growing relationship between two powers and Russian moves towards Chinese-style internet crackdowns, according to Reuters. Internet controls have increased under the leadership of both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Earlier this year, delegates from the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) brought the proposed agreement to Roskomnadzor, the Russian government service that monitors communications and information technology.

Leaders of the Roskomnadzor, Russia’s state-run communications agency, will reportedly sign the agreement with the Chinese government at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, China, according to the South China Morning Post. The agreement will reportedly carry the weight of a formal international treaty.

Though the exact rules of the pending internet agreement are still unclear, the agreement may cause concern for internet freedom proponents who have followed prior internet and information regulations in both countries.

The technology publication Ars Technica reported on Putin’s decision in March of this year, to sign two censorship bills, including a ban on “fake news” as well as a prohibition against insulting elected officials.

China has long pursued efforts to integrate a version of Google’s search engine that conforms with its existing censorship laws. More recently, China has exercised pressure against technology companies whose services have been adopted by protesters in Hong Kong. On Thursday, Apple removed an app that pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong had reportedly used to track police action throughout the city.

The latest show of cooperation continues a trend of growing relations between the Russian and Chinese leaders.

While both countries ostensibly operated under similar models of communism during the Cold War, Beijing and Moscow have been wary of each other in the past, according to Reuters. Putin has recently appeared to shift his public view of China and said the two countries have a “special relationship.”

In recent weeks, Putin has called to lend Russian help to the Chinese government’s efforts to build a missile launch warning system.

Until this point, only the U.S. and Russia have possessed the ground-based radars and space satellite systems necessary to detect missile launches, but China could soon match their missile warning systems.