The Russian government has drafted legislation that would prohibit members of the armed forces from sharing on the Internet any information about themselves, their fellow soldiers, or the military itself. The bill has already been submitted to the State Duma for consideration by federal lawmakers.
The ban would apply, among other things, to photos, videos, and geolocation data. The legislation’s explanatory note says soldiers who violate the new regulations would be subject to disciplinary action, and military contractors could be dismissed outright. The government cites data leaks in Syria as an example of why a new policy is needed.
Before Moscow officially acknowledged its military intervention in Syria in September 2015, open-source intelligence investigators at outfits like Bellingcat and Conflict Intelligence Team discovered evidence of Russian troops in the country, studying posts on social media by Russian soldiers, mercenaries, and their relatives. Using the same tactics, researchers have tracked Russian military activities in eastern Ukraine, where the Kremlin still denies any formal armed presence.
Russia’s Defense Ministry already urges soldiers to stop using social media and disable the geolocation feature on their mobile devices. Military officials have also advocated restrictions on access to smartphones and limits on what soldiers’ family members can share online.