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Q&A Document on Social Media, Messaging Platforms’ Responsibilities

(New York) – Social media and messaging service companies need to do much more to meet their human rights responsibilities in Ukraine and other crises and conflicts around the world, Human Rights Watch said today. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine…
A protester holds up a phone during a demonstration
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Questions and Answers on Platform Accountability and Human Rights Responsibilities

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, companies providing social media and messaging services have taken a wide array of steps to counter harmful disinformation, to label or block state-sponsored or state-affiliated media, and to…
Two women from Kharkiv, Ukraine, watch news on a mobile phone, just after having crossed the border into Moldova, on March 10, 2022.
News

Companies, Governments Should Ensure Rights

(Berlin) – Several leading foreign tech companies have withdrawn from Russia or suspended operations in the two weeks since Russia’s full-scale invasion in Ukraine, exacerbating the risk of isolation from the global internet for the country’s…
A young man wearing a face mask checks his mobile phone at the State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg, May 26, 2020.
News
Russian authorities have assigned “state system” status to the country’s uniform biometric database (UBS). The system aims to confirm identity in online banking and primarily consisted of bank clients’ facial images and voice samples. The new status (…
A young man wearing a face mask checks his mobile phone at the State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg, May 26, 2020.
News

Social Media Platforms Should Not Yield to Pressure

The final days of 2021 were marked by a particularly vicious escalation of Russia’s crackdown on independent reporting and activism. Amid a flurry of new “foreign agent” designations, arrests of political activists, and appalling court rulings…
An iPhone screen shows the Telegram account of OVD-Info
News

Blocking, Oppressive Laws, Pressure on Tech Companies

(Moscow) – Russian authorities redoubled their efforts in 2021 to repress internet freedoms, Human Rights Watch said today. The government blocked popular censorship circumvention tools, experimented with novel censorship technologies, expanded…
A young man wearing a face mask checks his mobile phone at the State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg, May 26, 2020.
News

Apple and Google Should Account for Limiting Access to Election Information

Apple and Google capitulated to Russian authorities last week when they removed access to the Navalny Smart Voting app on the eve of the weekend’s parliamentary election. The move helped undermine Russian voters’ ability to access information about…
Police officer wearing face mask stands on duty at the polling station on July 1, 2020 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
News

Robust Data Security Safeguards Should Be Put in Place

Last week, Russian media reported a major personal data leak of Covid-19 patients admitted to Moscow hospitals, as well as Muscovites who had been ordered to self-quarantine, or fined over violating the self-quarantine regulations. According to the…
A woman wearing a face mask looks at her smartphone as she walks through a street in Moscow, Russia, November 23, 2020. 
News

Parliament Should Reject Bill, Ensure Access to Information Online

On November 19, a draft law was submitted to Russia’s parliament that would give authorities power to block websites that have censored Russian state media content. The bill claims these websites violate Russians’ right of access to information.…
A man checks his smartphone while waiting to board a subway in Moscow, Russia, December 23, 2019. 
News

Lack of Accountability, Oversight, Data Protection

(Moscow) – Russian authorities are planning to expand the use of CCTV cameras with facial recognition software, despite weighty concerns about the lack of regulation, oversight, and data protection, Human Rights Watch said today. On September 25,…
Police officers walk past a surveillance camera in central Moscow, Russia January 26, 2020.
News

Activists File an Application to European Court of Human Rights

Activist Alyona Popova and politician Vladimir Milov have lodged a complaint over Russia’s use of  facial recognition technology during protests to the European Court of Human Rights. Their lawyer, Kirill Koroteyev, said this would be the…
Two surveillance camera are seen in a street in Moscow, Russia
News
Andrei Soldatov, interviewed by Human Rights Watch in April, is an investigative journalist, nonfiction writer and a top expert on Russia’s security services. His book “The Red Web,” co-authored with Irina Borogan, tells the story of the Russian internet…
Andrei Soldatov in Moscow
News

Authorities Regulate Infrastructure, Block Content

Note: This article features explainers. Click on the highlighted terms to see a short explainer. (Moscow) – Russia has significantly expanded laws and regulations tightening control over internet infrastructure, online content, and the privacy of…
Demonstrators, with a poster on the right reading "internet is our only chance," attend the Free Internet rally in response to a bill making its way through parliament calling for all internet traffic to be routed through servers in Russia— making VPNs (virtual private networks) ineffective, in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 10, 2019.
News
On May 29, Russian state media reported that the authorities are considering introducing an app that migrant workers would have to download when they enter the country, once the borders re-open after the COVID-19 lockdown. Little is known about the…
Shadows of people detained by Russian police, suspected of violating immigration rules during an action seen on containers at a street market in Moscow, Russia, August 7, 2013. © AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko
News

Entire Country’s Personal Data to Be Stored in One Place

Update: On June 8, President Putin signed the bill into law. The law will enter into force incrementally, starting January 1, 2022. A new law for creating a “uniform federal database” in Russia infringes on the right to privacy and weakens…
A Russian state flag waves on top of a hammer and sickle at the State Duma, lower parliament chamber, headquarters in Moscow, Russia
News

Many Fined Despite Staying Home

(Moscow) – Moscow authorities have wrongly fined hundreds, if not thousands, of people for allegedly breaching self-quarantine based on dubious interpretations of behavior by a “social monitoring” tracking app, Human Rights Watch said today…
A woman in medical gloves holding an iPhone.
News

COVID-19 Provides Excuse to Extend; New Monitoring Technology

Moscow’s officials are forging ahead with installing one of the world’s biggest surveillance camera systems equipped with facial recognition technology, despite protests from activists. The system is ostensibly to help in the fight against…
Two surveillance camera are seen in a street in Moscow, Russia
News

Wider Internet Surveillance

(Moscow) – The Russian government will gain even greater control over freedom of speech and information online when the country’s “sovereign internet” law goes into effect on November 1, 2019, Human Rights Watch said today. …
Protest against the RuNet (Russian Internet) isolation in Moscow on March 10, 2019.
News

New Law Needed to Retain Meaningful Human Control Over the Use of Force

(Geneva) – Russia, the United States, and a handful of other nations investing in autonomous weapons are preventing efforts to start negotiations on a new treaty to retain meaningful human control over the use of force, Human Rights Watch said…
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