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China & Russia and Information Weapons

Published: September 28, 2011, Author: Rÿser Rudolph C.

The governments of Russia, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan urged in a September 12, 2011 letter to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that he distribute to the 66th Session of the General Assembly an “International Code of Conduct for Information Security” to regulate and restrict uses of the Internet. While the proposal specifically warns that the Internet is being used to carry out hostile acts against states’ governments and their security infrastructure, the Orwellian-worded document poses a direct threat to the rights of indigenous peoples.

The Russian and Chinese governments have been cited by the United States and several European governments as the sponsors or sources of “cyber attacks,” and the Iranian government has pointed a finger at the United States government for using the Internet to introduce a destructive “worm” into that country’s nuclear development computers it would seem entirely reasonable that an international regulatory structure restrict hostile uses of the internet. “Cyber warfare,” according to the US Department of Defense, is a major 21st century threat to the security of states’ governments heavily dependent on digital, computerized information systems.

There is no doubt that reliance on digital media and computers by “technologized countries” opens them to security threats.

China and Russia have proposed an extremely restrictive plan to control “domestic populations” and their access to information. Their proposal also restricts communications and criminalizes political activism. The proposal includes paragraph 3 that specifically (using vague language) imposes criminal sanctions that will impose greater control over indigenous peoples:

“To cooperate in combating criminal and terrorist activities which use ICTs including networks, and curbing dissemination of information which incites terrorism, secessionism, extremism or undermines other countries’ political, economic and social stability, as well as their spiritual and cultural environment.”

Indigenous nations pursuing self-determination agendas, territorial defense initiatives, cultural protection initiatives and defensive efforts against state terrorism will all be considered “criminal and terrorist.”

A proposal initially aimed at “inter-state” cyber wars is clearly aimed at controlling peoples that have social, economic and political aspirations that do not necessarily parallel those of states’ government authorities. For state authorities this aspect of the Chinese and Russian proposal is very appealing.

Indigenous peoples were among the first in the world to use the Internet.  It was low cost and it linked peoples around the world in a common cause.  It is this latter quality that frightens state authorities.  Indigenous peoples having acquired new capacities for gaining information and sharing ideas as a result of the Internet must take the Chines and Russian proposal as a serious threat. They must add this threat in “cyber space” to the growing list of efforts to restrict and control recognized rights now embedded in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Failure to prevent this new attack on indigenous peoples’ freedom will reverse the human rights progress achieved over the last forty years.

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