Russia Demands That the World ‘Demilitarize’ Online Information

  • A Russian ambassador accused the West of “cyber-totalitarianism” and “militarizing” the internet.
  • He complained of a “Russophobic information campaign” spreading on social media and online.
  • Russia has often promoted disinformation, which Vassily Nebenzia called “alternative views.”

Russian diplomat Vassily Nebenzia launched a tirade against the West on Monday, accusing the world’s largest democracies of controlling information about the war in Ukraine and shutting down Russia’s “alternative views.”

“States that call themselves a ‘community of democracies’ in fact are building a cyber-totalitarianism,” Nebenzia, Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, said at a UN Security Council briefing on worldwide technology and security.

The diplomat denounced Ukraine for openly stating that it’s built a volunteer “IT” army to fight Russian disinformation online and to target Russian and Belarusian facilities.

“Colleagues, you are creating uncontrollable cyber troops that will master their skills in Ukraine by attacking Russia, but will not stop at that,” he said.

Nebenzia said the West is similarly “militarizing digital domain” and that Moscow would push back on any cyberattacks against Russia. He added that Russia demands “to demilitarize information space,” comparing a possible global online conflict to nuclear war.

“Once again, I call you to think of the danger of dragging the world into a cyber confrontation that is no less dangerous than [the] usage of WMDs,” Nebenzia said. 

On the other hand, multiple reports have documented an extensive Russian cyberattack campaign targeting Ukraine through malware and hacks, some of which are so destructive that they were said to be worse than Moscow anticipated.

Nebenzia said the West chooses to ignore any “alternative viewpoint” and disregards “all inconvenient facts,” citing Russia’s false claims that a civilian massacre in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha was a “hoax.”

Governments and established media outlets have widely called into question these claims in light of satellite photo evidence and video footage.

Nebenzia also criticized Facebook for blocking accounts that promote Russian disinformation, which he described as content that “does not meet the West-dictated agenda.” He complained of a “Russophobic information campaign” that attacks Russia on matters of politics, sports, education, and culture.

“Corporation Meta openly authorized at its platforms all hate speech and calls to violence against Russians,” he said.

Russia’s recent actions appear to contradict Nebenzia’s strong statements. The Kremlin has banned most Western social media networks since the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine.

In March, the country passed a law that makes dissent — which it defined as “spreading disinformation” — punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

At the Security Council briefing on Monday, the US and UK conversely accused Russia of trying to manipulate public opinion with false propaganda.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Russian government “continues to shut down, restrict and degrade internet connectivity, censor content, spread disinformation online, and intimidate and arrest journalists for reporting the truth about its invasion.”