CSTO wants to monitor the internet to prevent a repeat of Arab revolutions

Moscow News
September 13, 2011 Tuesday

Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) announced that it will start controlling social networks to avoid a repeat of mass riots like in Tunisia and Egypt.

Sources in the organization, which includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, say that ‘there is no talk about censorship or about fighting dissidence,’ Izvestia reported on Tuesday.

‘Experts of the highest level’ are already working on this, the source added.

‘The thing is, in the modern environment there is an infrastructure that allows for creating destabilizing situations in any, even the most trouble-free country. Mobile connections, social networks, even NGOs when needed, could be used for these aims.’

Social networks at work

The threat of riots incited on the web had already been seen several times, said the director of Geopolitical Expertise Center Valery Korovin, particularly in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and others.

‘At the last CSTO summit a document recognizing the real threat of using such technologies in Russia was passed,’ said Korovin, who is a member of CSTO’s expert council, adding that it should have been done ‘yesterday.’

Easy to start riots online

The mechanism for organizing riots is very simple, Korovin said.

‘With the use of internet bots a negative environment is created surrounding one of the country’s leaders. The internet-users then think that everyone thinks like this. For example, that Gaddafi has to leave, that he is a scoundrel, a criminal and a thief,’ Korovin said.

In this case the people will feel dissonance with the authorities. ‘It creates grounds for mass riots, a background for displacing a certain political regime,’ he said.

He argued that this scenario was the most threatening for those who have to balance their relations between Russia and the West.

Cause and effect

However, executive partner of Social Networks agency Denis Terekhov argued that the role of the networks in the Arab spring was highly exaggerated, but that CSTO’s plans are an ‘attempt to close the gate after the horse had already bolted.’

‘Twitter and Facebook are just instruments. In the case of Arab revolutions they were just an effect, not the cause,’ he told Izvestia.

Terekhov argues that in order to fight these trends CSTO need to read everything that is written and analyze it, but ‘it is impossible to have a million readers monitoring billions of records.’

Head of the Tajik Association of Internet Providers Parvina Ibodova also thinks that social networks are only the effect, and not the cause.

‘Everyone knows that Arab revolutions happened not because people were stirred to arise through Twitter and Facebook, but because there were political, social and other elements in these countries that did not please the people, or some part of it,’ she told Asia Plus agency.

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