The news last Monday: a prosecutor in Chechnya demanded four years behind bars for the human-rights activist Oyub Titiev, on trumped-up drug charges; in Tatarstan, an activist was detained for creating a false gravestone for President Vladimir Putin (with 2019 as his death year); in Moscow, a court ordered the continued pre-trial detention of ten young people arrested a year ago for participating in a fictional opposition organization created by the secret police; also in Moscow, four of the twenty-eight people who had been detained during a weekend protest against restricting access to the Internet said that they had been beaten by police. These and similar headlines made up the home page of OVDInfo.org, an online publication produced in Moscow. Grigory Okhotin, the thirty-six-year-old co-founder of OVDInfo, told me that he doesn't actually think of the site as a publication. The articles have headlines and bylines, and the site has an attractive block layout, but, according to Okhotin, OVDInfo is not exactly designed for reading. "I can't imagine anyone who reads us every day," he said.
We already knew that the city of Moscow is saturated with CCTV cameras, but we've only just learned the extent that the city is able to conduct surveillance on its citizens. NTechLab is a bold Russian company that is at the forefront of the most talked about technology around, facial recognition. Their app, FindFace, which can track everyone on VKontakte, the Russian equivalent of Twitter, based on their profile, caused an outcry in and outside Russia after it was used to to identify and harass sex workers and porn actresses through their personal profiles. Later, the company launched an emotion-reading recognition system, re-igniting concerns over the citizens' privacy and personal data. Despite rumours, nobody really knew who's using this state-of-the-art technology as NTechLab doesn't disclose the identity of their clients.
MOSCOW – The World Cup final between France and Croatia on Sunday was briefly interrupted when four intruders affiliated to anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot ran onto the pitch before being hauled off by stewards. The pitch invaders, who were dressed in police-style outfits, were later detained by police, one of them said by telephone from a police station near Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, venue for the match. Police charged the members of the protest group with "violation of spectators' rights" and illegally wearing police symbols. The Interfax news agency reported late Sunday that the four could face penalties of up to 11,500 rubles ($185) or 160 hours of community service. The pitch invasion was the first significant security lapse in the five-week tournament that has won hosts Russia widespread praise for organization and efficiency.
Nick Monaco is a research associate at Alphabet's human rights focused think-tank and technology incubator Jigsaw. He is also a research associate on the Computational Propaganda Project at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. Samuel Woolley is the Director of Research of the Computational Propaganda Project at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. A troubling trend is sweeping Silicon Valley--big tech acquiescing to digital authoritarianism to gain access to the Chinese market. In July, Apple removed VPNs from its Chinese app store and announced plans to build a data center in Guizhou to comply with China's new draconian cybersecurity laws.