Skip to Content
Computing

Russia is going to ban soldiers from using smartphones and social media on duty

February 20, 2019

Active-duty Russian soldiers have been turning up in some awkward places—so the country’s parliament has voted to curtail their use of location-broadcasting devices and apps.

The new law: It states that military personnel are banned from posting about themselves or colleagues online, or using devices that can distribute audio, photo, video, or geolocation data via the internet. The State Duma voted through a final version of the draft law on Tuesday, and it will now pass to President Vladimir Putin for formal approval. It builds on previous measures in 2017 that ruled Russian soldiers should not share information online, including selfies.

Why? Security personnel and journalists have been able to use social-media posts by Russian troops to gain insight into the country’s military involvement in Syria and in Ukraine. Sometimes their findings have directly contradicted official information from the Russian government. An explanatory note attached to the bill specifically mentioned the recent military campaign in Syria, according to the New York Times. It will also make it harder to back up claims of hazing, bullying, and arcane initiation practices that are still common for new recruits in Russia.

Going phone-free: Smartphone bans can be difficult to enforce—phones are small devices that can easily escape notice. And they’re ubiquitous. If any institution can enforce such a ban, though, it might be the Russian military. Fear of disciplinary measures and the risk of instant dismissal may be enough to keep the troops in line.

The logic behind it: Although the law might seem like overkill, it makes sense to be wary of the devices soldiers are using. Internet-connected gadgets can always pose a security risk, as the US military embarrassingly learned almost exactly a year ago when it turned out personnel had been accidentally leaking the locations and layouts of bases via the Strava fitness app.

Deep Dive

Computing

child outside a destroyed residential building in Kiev
child outside a destroyed residential building in Kiev

Russia hacked an American satellite company one hour before the Ukraine invasion

The attack on Viasat showcases cyber’s emerging role in modern warfare.

hacked telecom concept
hacked telecom concept

Chinese hackers exploited years-old software flaws to break into telecom giants

A multi-year hacking campaign shows how dangerous old flaws can linger for years.

stock image of robots in a car plant
stock image of robots in a car plant

Transforming the automotive supply chain for the 21st century

Cloud-based tech solutions are helping manufacturers manage a new ecosystem of suppliers with greater agility and resilience.

gitee censored
gitee censored

How censoring China’s open-source coders might backfire

Many suspect the Chinese state has forced Gitee, the Chinese competitor to GitHub, to censor open-source code in a move developers worry could obstruct innovation.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.