Russian MPs vote to ban military smartphones
Under the legislation, personnel will be banned from posting online, using smart devices and recording or distributing audio, photo, video or locations.
Phones with basic calling and messaging could still be used, but smartphones are outlawed under the ban.
Personnel are also forbidden from writing about the military or talking to journalists.
President Vladimir Putin now needs to give his approval.
Digital activity has enabled the media to expose military activity with social media posts contradicting government assertions that his troops were not attacking Ukraine or involved in Syria.
When the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, the investigative website Bellingcat used online photos to track the movement into Ukraine of the Russian anti-aircraft missile system that destroyed the aircraft.
The Kremlin denies any involvement in the crash but a criminal investigation in the Netherlands, using video and photos, announced that Russia’s military supplied the missile.
A note with the bill referred to the accidental exposure of Russia’s role in Syria.
“Information, shared by soldiers on the internet or mass media, is used for informational and psychologic pressure and in separate cases to form a biased assessment of Russia’s state policy,” Deputy Defence Minister Nikolai Pankov said.
Using social media, western journalists revealed the deployment of Russia’s troops in Syria in 2015, before Moscow’s official announcement. In contradiction of the Kremlin’s statements, it was also proved that Russia used ground troops during the civil war.
Vladimir Bogodukhov of the Duma’s military committee reportedly said Russia would remain defenceless while its information was left unprotected “from our so-called partners”.
Ruslan Leviev of the Conflict Intelligence Team, which probes Russian foreign policy, said one of the reasons for the new bill was fear of deeper sanctions.
“The Russian government believes that many of these investigations were one of the reasons behind the imposition and extension of anti-Russian sanctions,” Leviev told the New York Times.
“It is impossible to control so many people,” he said. “Thanks to the development of digital society, we all leave more and more traces online. It is not difficult to find them.”
American military security was questioned when fitness tracking app Strava showed the exercise routes of US personnel in bases in Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The US military is still allowed to use social media but in accordance with guidelines.
The MH17 investigation in Ukraine. Picture credit: Wikimedia