The Kremlin

Putin Says The Internet Is A 'CIA Project'

Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced some interesting views about the Internet, and may push for a Russian alternative.

By Matt Picht | April 24, 2014

Politicians have a history of occasionally saying crazy things about the Internet.

AL GORE: "During my service in Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet." (Via CNN)

SEN. TED STEVENS: "The internet is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck, it's a series of tubes!" (Via Comedy Central / "The Daily Show")

Well, Russian President Vladimir Putin just offered up his own left-field theory about how the Internet works. Only this time, the punch line might not be as funny.

The Moscow Times reports during a media Q&A Thursday, Putin said the Internet "emerged as a special project of the U.S. CIA and develops as such." As evidence, Putin cited nonspecific Western interference in Russian search giant  Yandex, which took a hit to their stock price after his comments.

Now, in all fairness, it is possible Putin was making a clumsy reference to some of the early government-funded proto-networks like ARPANET or NSTNET, which helped form the backbone of the Internet. But the CIA was never publicly involved in those projects, which in any case faded into obscurity by the mid-nineties as commercial networks took over. (Via Computer History Museum)

And as a CNET writer points out, if the Internet really is a continuing CIA project, it's a bizarre one. "It's a touch disturbing to imagine that the CIA is so moved by cat videos and other related silliness."

The Daily Beast even sarcastically hopes that Putin's statement "will finally prompt Congress to demand real reforms and end this national nightmare of cat listicles and online banking."

But there's a sinister side to all this: Putin also suggested Russia needs to "fight for its influence" on the web, in order to counteract the ever-nefarious CIA.

The Guardian writes, this could herald a move by Putin to "break up the global nature of the Internet. ... Putin has long hinted he wants a Russian-run alternative."

Following last year's disclosure's of the U.S. government's digital surveillance, several countries have called for breaking up the global Internet into regional intranets administrated by individual countries. (Via The Guardian)

And if Putin's recent digital moves are any indication, a Russian-only web could face some pretty severe restrictions. The CEO of Russia's main social media site VKontakte recently fled the country after being ousted from his company by two pro-Kremlin oligarchs. (Via Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

Last week, Russia's national assembly amended an anti-terrorism bill to include punishments for bloggers who post content deemed to threaten national security.

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