What was the beginning of Year 2018 for Internet Freedom? Overview

We regularly monitor incidents and violations of Internet freedom in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. The results of the monitoring and our analytics are available on our website: netfreedom.org.ua

Soviet propaganda actively used the term ‘collaborationism’ during the WWII, blaming Ukrainian participants of the liberation struggle in cooperating with the Nazi Germany. Today, we can hear this term in the walls of the Ukrainian parliament — deputies Vysotskyi, Tymchuk, Lapin, and the others offered to check citizens for whether they collaborate with other states, including through conducting informational and psychological warfare on the Internet.

With the increasing value of bitcoin and the hype surrounding cryptocurrencies, the government decided to introduce control of circulation of cryptocurrencies in the territory of Ukraine. This tendency is, by the way, true for many other governments.

The end of 2017 was marked with a court hearing in the case of Serhiy Milman that drew public attention — the founder of YouControl platform that is actively used when searching for data by investigative journalists.

And the SSU finally published statistics on the number of moderators of ‘separatist’ groups who were arrested in 2017, and the number is impressive.

Please read a detailed overview of the key events in the sphere of Internet Freedom prepared by our team below.

To check for ‘collaborationism.’ On December 20, 2017 the bill that offers to introduce checks for facts of collaborationism was registered in the Verkhovna Rada. The bill has a number of provisions that may impact the level of Internet Freedom in Ukraine and introduce changes into the process of appointing of state officials. DETAILS

Attempt to control cryptocurrencies. The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NDSC) adopted the decision that ensures access of the law enforcement to the data of cryptocurrency exchanges and providing information about the client on demand. It is also planned to tax income obtained from operations with cryptocurrencies. READ MORE

Ukraine is ‘partly free’, and Crimea is one of the most not free territories in the world. International human rights organization Freedom House published the report Freedom in the World 2018 to sum up 2017. Ukraine remains on the list of ‘partly free’ countries without considerable changes in rating. The territory of temporarily occupied by Russia Crimea is marked as one of the least free territories in the world. DETAILS

YouControl on trial. The founder of analytical online service YouControl Serhiy Milman was charged with ‘unauthorized intervention in the operation of computer systems.’ This kind of crime is punished with a prison term of three to six years. He has been currently let out on bail of $51,000. MORE HERE

“In a couple days I’ll be officially found.” Blogger Eduard Nedeliayev who was freed from being captured in Luhansk asks not to wait to report to the police about people who went missing in the NGCA, as it enables freeing them. The police is currently officially reporting that Eduard Nedeliayev has been ‘found.’ READ

Nedeliayev sentence became one of the key factors to worsen Internet freedom rating in Ukraine in 2017.

Freedom House named three key factors that led to worse Internet Freedom rating in Ukraine in 2017:

  1. Blocking of Russian social networks and services (the researchers included this measure under ‘Limiting Access to Content’)
  2. Prison time for a citizen of Chernihiv for five years for call to change the territorial borders of Ukraine on social networks according the article 109(2)-(3) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. Also, imprisonment of blogger Eduard Nedeliayev for 14 years in the occupied Luhansk for his pro-Ukrainian position in August, 2017.
  3. The assassination of journalist Pavel Sheremet in July, 2016, which is most likely linked to his journalistic activities. READ MORE

Russia is behind NotPetya virus. It is likely that the Russian Main Intelligence Department (GRU) of the Ministry of Defense in Russia was behind the cyber attack of NotPetya (also known as Petya) virus in June 2017, the CIA thinks. According to the information of the agency, Russia used a blackmailing virus so that it would seem that regular hackers and not the state has perpetrated the attack. DETAILS

The virus attacked infrastructure. When the virus was spreading, Internet Freedom wrote that it was likely it was created to attack the infrastructure and not to extort money. RECALL

The SSU Reports a Number of Uncovering Operations

The SSU reports about 338 arrests. In late 2017, the SSU published statistics on Internet-related crimes. It is reported that the activities of 338 administrators of anti-Ukrainian groups were stopped. The court issued 36 guilty verdicts, and 43 criminal cases are open against people spreading propaganda on the Internet. However, no details are mentioned: what kind of websites and groups they were, how their activities were stopped, and what evidence exists. DETAILS

Lucky Labs Plays with the SSU. On January 12, press releases were sent out in the name of Lucky Labs IT company that informed about the SSU searches in one of the company’s offices. On January 15, the press service of the company denied information about searches and claimed that some people maliciously spread fakes. READ MORE

SSU: ‘anti-Ukrainian Internet propagandist’ uncovered in Kryvyi Rih. The agency reported that a man published materials with calls to change the territorial borders of Ukraine in the banned Russian social networks. MORE

Two Kyiv citizens have been charged with propaganda activities. According to the SSU, on the orders from the Russian secret services the alleged criminals have filmed and posted anti-Ukrainian video materials on the Internet, which were later shared in the Russian media. DETAILS

Internet provocations in Odesa, Sloviansk, and Bakhmut. “Modetators on the orders from Russia posted materials with calls to change the territorial borders of Ukraine and to support terrorist organizations the L/DNR on social networks. They received monetary compensation from their Russian curators,” the SSU says.

Are conversions legal? The SSU reported that a Russian citizen who created a system for illegal conversion of money with the use of cryptocurrency for further forwarding it to Russian Federation and temporarily occupied territories of Donbas and the annexed Crimea was uncovered in Odesa. MORE

Crimea

Two years of prison for sharing ‘rusophobic’ ideas. Yalta city court that is controlled by the Russian authorities sentenced Ukrainian activist Larysa Kytayska to two years of probation on December 25 for posts on social networks. DETAILS

Belarus

Rushing for cryptocurrencies. While Ukraine plans to introduce control over circulation of cryptocurrencies, Belarus legalized mining and operations with cryptocurrencies in December. MORE

In the previous report, we summed up the discussion on digital rights of users on the Internet. You can read the overview here.

The overview has been written by NGO “Internews Ukraine” as part of implementing the project Internet Freedom in Ukraine: Supporting the Principles of Freedom of Speech and Security in the Time of Conflict.”

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