Artem Frolov

December 20th 2011
I can’t believe it took so long for me to receive your letter. My first term
at the university is coming to a climax. Exams are quite draining, but I can
honestly say I love Moscow State University. The professors here are great,
and it seems that everyone around me is a walking encyclopedia that is filled
with brilliant ideas and plans for the future. Speaking of the youth: remember
we heard from my uncle that city kids have computers and spend a lot of
time “socializing” through them? It’s true! All of the students here are
engulfed in their VK, and facebook accounts. They are constantly posting
pictures of themselves and share their views on what goes on in the
university, Moscow, as well as the larger world around us.
I’m often shocked about how open people are on these social
networks. They don’t seem to be worried about who will read their posts.
Some people discuss their conflicts with professors and complain about
“unfairness”. I stay out of those conversations, but sometimes I really want
to say, “well maybe if you spent more time in the books and less on your
laptop you’d get a 5- instead of your 3+. . .”. Some people are even more
daring and write about political events. I thought it was the death of Вася
Шишкин when he said some aggressive things about president Путин. Such
open discussion was a surprise after Баба Маша’s stories of the Soviet
times! I guess Вася didn’t like the way the vote went. On a lighter note, I saw
some funny posts about America actually having a black presidential
candidate! I looked it up and it’s true! After all of that history of slavery and
the rest, some guy Obama is actually getting a lot of support from the
You know Света, I never realized how much we miss out without
having the internet in our tiny Простоквашено. By now Тетя Люда probably
had her baby. Where does that put our total population at? 63? I get packed
with more people in one train of the subway on the way to the theater! I
suppose most of our people would like some running water before they even
come close to thinking having Internet. Maybe one day the cables will reach
there too. But don’t feel alone. Most of us Russians don’t have it either. I
looked it up today, about 49% of the population has Internet access, but it
seems to be spreading pretty quickly. Last year, 20 million more people got
connection. Hopefully in the near future Простоквашено will get Internet
and we can use it to chat instead of waiting for these letters. I saw someone

use a really nifty program called Skype yesterday. He was actually able to
have a conversation and see his parents live!
Until next time,
Твой Друг
August 17th 2012
I’m glad to hear everyone’s well back at home. It’s a bummer that I
couldn’t come back for the summer this year, but I think it’s for the best. I’m
writing to tell of a little bit of the latest buzz here at the university.
Just a couple weeks ago, on the 28th of July to be exact, Путин signed
a new law regarding Internet censorship. The Дума (lower part of the
legislature) proposed this bill to protect children from harmful information. It
sounds like a really awesome plan so far. They call it: “On the Protection of
Children From Information Harmful to Their Health and Development.” They
want to block all of the sites that show stuff like child pornography, drugrelated content, and websites that teach how to inflict harm onto oneself. I’m
really glad actually. I heard about some younger kid who started doing weird
pain inducing practices that he found on some sketchy website. It’s nice to
see that the government is doing something about it.
Some people are a little worried about it. We have this one girl who
always thinks that the government is trying to hunt down the citizens and
limit them. She says Дума purposefully has some sort evil plan for this whole
“On Protecting” bill. She keeps saying something about the bill being written
really vaguely, so they can adjust definitions to keep making everything
more difficult. I’ve looked into it myself and did notice some parts were
pretty vague. Look:
“Other information not legally disseminated in the Russian
Federation [can be added to the registry] on the basis of a court
decision recognizing the illegality of the disseminated
Technically, they gave themselves the right to add to the “blacklist” anything
they choose to. Yet, the supporters of the bill oppose the conspiracy theories
and say that Internet providers will monitor it and that the government will
be keeping out of it for the most part. I don’t think it’s problematic yet. I
don’t even know where one finds those sites, so this new law doesn’t affect
me. Well, except for the fact that this system is expected to cost around

$500 million. Yes, USD. There goes all hope for new sidewalks on the
outskirts of Moscow . . .

I like that there is some sort of censorship. But, it is true that it can be
potentially dangerous to freedom of speech. I think that there should be
more done at finding sources of this type of content and tracking down those
responsible for the child pornography and drug spread. Simply closing down
sites isn’t good enough. People will easily open up another one. I’ll keep you
posted with whatever else might be turning out from all of this. Still hoping
that you’ll be getting Internet there soon so we don’t have to wait so long to
write to each other.
Твой Друг

June 13th 2013
It’s nice to be halfway done with the university. I love thinking about
the future adventures that lie ahead. Lets hope I can spend a couple years
travelling after I’m done with this degree.
Remember I told you about the “blacklist” plan that Дума developed to
stop child pornography? Well, it sort of escalated this year. I think that girl
that loves conspiracy theories may be right to some extent . . .
The latest law is something called the Russian SOPA (a spoof off of an
attempted American law in 2012). This time, the government wants to the
illegal spread of copy written material and piracy. For now, the focus is on
films. They do however want to expand this to include everything including
ebooks, music, and any other material. People are really unhappy about this.
I’m not even talking about the kids who download American movies for free
off of torrenting websites (sorry about the technical jargon Света). It is nice
to see however, that we have the freedom of courts to be able to file such
complaints against copywrite infringement. And I think its pretty fair that

those filed against also have the right to object and fight their case in the
court of law.
Back to the bill: Internet Service Providers are going to have a hard
time enforcing the law as it is worded currently. It’s a little funny even. Some
of my hacker friends were talking about it last week. One of them was saying
that the monitoring of this content would be done by the IP address. The
problem for ISPs, however, is that that most of these piracy sites have some
pretty smart people. Meaning, their IP addresses change all of the time or go
through a bunch of different locations, which makes them nearly impossible
to track. As it is, there’s too much leeway for copywrite holders. For example,
they don’t even have to tell the ISPs where the infringement is happening!
Imagine how much time and money has to be spent by the ISPs constantly
having to look for potentially pirated material. It’s simply laughable . . . Even
Yandex, a giant search engine said that the law is asking for too much.
There’s simply no way for the ISPs to be able to do something like this. Some
of those behind the “blacklist” are also saying that technologically speaking,
blocking IP addresses is way too inefficient when considering the millions of
users and millions of files being transferred illegally.
I still really do think that they’re not looking deep enough into the
issues. What is causing these riots? What are people upset about exactly?
Should there be an upgrade of police force or crowd control? Hopefully, these
systems actually work to promote personal safety of people. I guess we’ll
have to see how it all turns out. People are pretty upset though. The kids
keep writing a lot of hate on the social media. Definitely have seen an
increase of it. You know, I’m glad that we have the rights to express
ourselves here. Democracy definitely did good things for our country!
Imagine how much the KGB would be hunting these people down for
speaking out so openly back in the Soviet time! I’m curious if it’ll ever go
back to such a time of oppression again . . .
Keep up the writing,
Твой Друг

May 25th 2014
I really appreciate all of the questions you’re asking and will do my
best to keep you up to date with everything that’s going on here in the urban
core. Over the past few months, there’s been a lot more activity regarding all
of this Internet censorship than in the past couple years that I’ve been here

in Moscow. I may have to write to you more frequently than you reply to me.
Here’s the latest:
Over the past few months, there have been a number of different bills
that are aimed to reduce the amount of terrorism in the country. The riots of
winter 2011-12 and October of last year have influenced Дума’s lawmaking.
Considering those riots’ connections to social media and the like, the bills
proposed are mostly aimed at limiting and governing the blogging world.
First of all, the Prosecutor General may have the right to close down
any website that calls to riots and any unsanctioned rallies. This includes any
sort of terrorist or extremist activity. What’s incredible is that this law is much
more strict than the RuNet Blacklist of 2012. Over there, the owner of the
content had some time to remove the banned content before a site was
closed down. With this new law, the entire domain (meaning the entire
website, not just a page with poor content) would be taken down and only
afterwards would the owner be notified and start the consequential
All of this is done in the name of national security. They’re trying to
prevent the riots that I mentioned earlier. Which, I suppose makes sense.
People around here were pretty upset with the terrorist like activity and I
heard some saying that they were happy to hear this new proposed law. I
haven’t decided for myself on this one. It is starting to look like the US
though – always paranoid and looking for terrorists.
There is a second set of proposed laws that came as a package of a
couple. The first requires that any host of any form of social communication
store information about received and sent data of all kinds for at least six
months. Not only do they have to story the information, but they must also
inform the security services when users start using the site and when there
is an exchange of information. I’m trying to imagine how social networks like
facebook will achieve that with millions of users. And even though facebook
is outside of Russia, because it has users in Russia, it would have to comply.
However, I think that right there Russia is hitting a lot of walls with
international laws, so it’s under question whether or not that will pass.
Personally, I can’t help correlating this last one to Edward Snowden. Just a
few months after he comes to Russia, all of a sudden Russia wants to
impalement metadata collection on all social media. Perhaps they want to
use him as a resource to help set the system up before he’s gone . . .
Another part of the bill is a limit to the money exchange systems
currently in place in RuNet. It took me a little while to understand, but
apparently this too is done in the name of limiting terrorist attacks. The key
here is that all anonymity is limited in electronic money transferring and all

international transfers must be linked to a legal identity. Part of this bill,
NGOs must also report more international spending to Russia. All of this
means a lot of hurdles when it comes to money transfers. Though it’s good in
the context of illegal activity, it does make things like positive social
movements really difficult or at least significantly harder than before. A lot of
big bloggers are open about their disapproval of the bills, and this holds true
for many. Regardless of which edition of the bills will pass, there’s no doubt
that there are more and more restrictions on the horizon.
More recently, bloggers have experienced a big threat in freedom of
speech. Like the anonymity laws of the previous bill, they are required to
have certain information about themselves linked to every post.
Furthermore, as soon as someone has more than 3,000 followers, mass
media laws restrict the blog. A lot of self-expression has the potential to be
deemed illegal at this point. Even the most bold of bloggers are going to
keep their mouth on the down low as the lawsuits are going to be really
expensive. I asked what some kids thought about that here at the university.
They said they’re going to take advantage of the little followers they have
and speak their mind before it gets too late to do so.
I’m trying to still figure out how this all ties into our constitution. I’ve
read through some of it and found the bits on freedom of speech. Article 29
of Chapter 2 talks about the freedom of speech. Everyone has the freedom of
speech. In fact, it’s guaranteed. This includes mass communication;
censorship is banned. Yet, at the same time, nothing that spreads hatred and
strife is allowed. Between these two clauses, there is a lot vast open space
and the vagueness really does make it difficult to bring in the constitution
when trying to argue against new bills. Both parties can easily use it for their
own benefit.
I’ll write more as things come my way,
Твой Друг
January 7th 2020
Merry Christmas. I really hope you receive this letter.
It seems that the build up of the past 7 years has reached climax.
Censorship and freedom of speech is almost a thing of the past when
compared to the days how we knew it then. I remember reading the articles
of 2014 and 2015. They sounded so far stretched some times, so conspiracy
driven. Back then no one really took it seriously though. There was some

good propaganda about the Internet in 2015. Studies were showing 42% of
Russians surveyed thought foreign countries were using the Internet as a tool
against Russia. It’s not a surprise they implemented the law about local
hosting. I believe it was September of that year when Putin’s approved law
came into action. Every piece of personal information about Russia’s citizens
had to be hosted on servers on Russian territory. Even international services
need to have Russia servers for their content. I met a guy once who said,
“they’ll use that poorly. Just you wait.” He was right.
Now, because the content is all on Russian, everyone is under watch.
There is not an ounce of privacy. There is nowhere to hide. There is no way to
shout complaint. All of the posts are read, all of the pictures archived.
Everything is kept. Most of the people of my age from the original age of
facebook and twitter have closed their accounts. There simply is no point to
post any more. The terms in the laws are becoming more and more
manipulated, and the content more and more restricted. Most feel like frogs
in a pot. It all started so noble and security oriented. For the people it
seemed. Yet, the privacy and freedom have been creepingly violated. I don’t
know what is to come next. But, everyday, I keep seeing fines and jail
sentences for those charged with “violent” or “extremist” content. There’s
been a perversion. Be thankful for the liberty you still have with family.
Твой Друг