Фото: Google.ru

Фото: Google.ru

The blocking of video and voice communications on the WhatsApp and Skype instant messengers in Azerbaijan recently was understood by the population as a forced measure, temporarily adopted by the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies (MTSVT) to prevent Internet congestion during the Games of Islamic solidarity. This version was put forward by the president of the public organization "Multimedia" Osman Gunduz.

On the eve of the Games, the Ministry established a headquarters for regulating the Internet, including preventing its use for criminal purposes. But on May 22, the Islamic Games ended, the guests departed, and it's impossible to talk to foreign subscribers and see them on the screen through WhatsApp and Skype. Only text messengers work in Azerbaijan on a foreign direction.

The Ministry does not explain what is happening. When asked by Turan, a spokeswoman for the Ministry"s press service said that there were no restrictions in the work of these messengers, and indeed this connection sometimes functioned during the days of the Games. But then it stopped again.

The reasons are being clarified, if we recall the year 2015, when the then head of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies, Ali Abbasov, stated about the need to licensing WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and social networks in Azerbaijan, explaining this by concern for the security of Azerbaijanis. That year, in early July, there were even episodic disconnections of calls to WhatsApp. The Milli Majlis discussed the spreading of appeals in social networks that attract young people to dangerous sects, and in Russia they talked with alarm about easily accessible network information for the manufacture of explosives in artisanal conditions. It was assumed that by forcing social networks and messengers to enter into licensing agreements with the state, the authorities will have the right to demand from communication means the provision of information about the user and his correspondence, which will undoubtedly facilitate the search for people whom the authorities consider criminals.

In Azerbaijan, independent experts opposed these plans

Lawyer Alesker Mammadli asserts that the state has no right to interfere in the bilateral relations between the citizen and the client (social network) operating in the az domain, and finding part of this network (messenger) in the territory of Azerbaijan does not give the authorities the right to regulate its activities. The real reasons for this are the desire to accumulate financial profits in the ministry's structures that were not received as a result of the use of foreign social networks and messengers by subscribers, as well as the intention to receive individual information about each subscriber, Mammadli said.

Expert in IT Ilgar Mirza put forward a version of the commercial interests of mobile phone operators that press on the ministry, so that the state would limit the work of social networks and messengers competing with telephone companies in the field of international communications. Telephone companies suffer losses, since it is more convenient to talk with a foreign friend via Skype, and you do not need to pay for the conversation. We pay only for using the Internet.

Ali Abbasov stated that if foreign IT companies work in Azerbaijan, they should receive a certificate in his ministry after the adoption of the relevant Azerbaijani law. He reported that the relevant negotiations with companies in Azerbaijan began, and most of the companies' desire for the ministry was "accepted positively". Abbasov referred to the experience of "European countries", and experts called Turkey, Belarus and Russia.

In this same BBC-Azerbaijan material, the words of marketing manager of Microsoft Azərbaycan company Sabina Parvizi were expressed, which expressed confidence in her company's intention to work within the framework of the laws of Azerbaijan. This company is responsible for the operation of Skype.

The events of 2015 are repeated, despite the fact that Ali Abbasov is no longer a minister, and his former department is now called otherwise. This time disabling voice and video communication in WhatsApp and Skype is stable and long-term. Osman Gunduz is absolutely sure that the will of the ministry, which is the only state executive body in the sphere of communications, is being fulfilled. He believes that the main cause of what is happening is the concern for security, which means that resources that offer similar services will be gradually blocked.

How long will it go on? The expert O. Gunduz linked this question from Turan agency with the willingness of companies to comply with the requirements of the state to provide them with subscriber codes, their willingness to cooperate with state security agencies. In general, he is sure, the state will not go on a permanent blockade of modern means of communication, this is unacceptable for Azerbaijan. Therefore, the state should offer companies the alternatives, and users - means of communication that suit the interests of the state and subscribers, including their material needs. After all, in Azerbaijan the cost of traditional telephone calls abroad and roaming in cell phones is expensive.

"I think that for the belligerent country, which is Azerbaijan, security issues should be on the first place, and this is understandable. But a total ban on modern technologies for individual communication can lead to a repetition of the Estonian experience. Let me remind you that the Skype software was created by Estonians, who want to get out of the post-Soviet state control over communication facilities. As a rule, attempts to limit modern technologies lead to the forced appearance of even more modern technologies that bypass the state ban. As a last example I will cite the popularity of VPN technologies in Azerbaijan, anonymous servers, anonymous networks and TOR-browsers, through which citizens of our country visit prohibited web resources in Azerbaijan, Osman Gunduz added.

Behind the experience of Russia and Turkey

As is known, Azerbaijan often repeats the experience of Russia and Turkey by adopting laws, the text of which has been translated into Azerbaijani from similar Turkish and Russian documents. Therefore, we should expect a repetition in the Milli Mejlis of the events taking place now in the State Duma of the Russian Federation. In the Russian parliament, a bill was introduced to identify the users of instant messengers. According to preliminary data, the provisions of the law can come into force from January 1 of the next year, the document is published on the website of the State Duma.

Identification was considered necessary among other antiterrorist measures. As stated in the explanatory note, "the identification of Internet users" is carried out by the operator of communication using the subscriber number, on the basis of the identification agreement concluded by the organizer of instant messaging with the telecommunications operator. "

Messengers will be obliged to provide an opportunity to limit the distribution of messages sent by unidentified users, and ensure the distribution of electronic messages on the initiative of public authorities, Pravda.ru reports.

"This draft law has been introduced, including with the aim of introducing anti-terror measures: messengers, electronic services are used for messaging, and there is no possibility of interaction between the state and this means of disseminating information." How to avoid the spread of spam, especially if this spam is associated with Illegal actions, with terrorist actions? The state should be able to somehow prevent this," said one of the authors of the bill, State Duma deputy Alexander Yushchenko (CPRF).

"... it's normal, if the identification numbers are tied to the phone number, no one is worrying about this, so politicizing this circumstance is not exactly necessary," he said. Roskomnadzor proposed to introduce amendments to the law "On Communications" necessary to implement this proposal.

Azerbaijan passed through the verbal preparatory phase for the legislative restriction of the work of messengers, and maybe social networks. It is possible that the next phase - the adoption of a specific law, the country will pass faster than Russia.

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