The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries

Talk Tuesday 29 September 2015, 7:00 PM

On the eighth floor of an ordinary-looking building in an otherwise residential district of southwest Moscow, in a room occupied by the Federal Security Service (FSB), is a box the size of a VHS player marked SORM. The Russian government’s front line in the battle for the future of the Internet, SORM is the world’s most intrusive listening device – monitoring e-mails, Internet usage, Skype, and all social networks.

In a new book The Red Web, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan peel back the history of advanced surveillance systems in Russia. They will be joining us to discuss what they found and to reveal how a free global exchange can be coerced into becoming a tool of repression and geopolitical warfare.

Having conducted interviews with numerous prominent officials in the Ministry of Communications and web-savvy activists challenging the state, the picture they paint sees dissidents, oligarchs, and some of the world’s most dangerous hackers collide in the uniquely Russian virtual world.

This event will be moderated by the BBC’s Home Affairs Correspondent, Daniel Sandford. Sandford was the BBC’s Moscow Correspondent from 2010-2014, and covered the annexation of Crimea, the war in Eastern Ukraine, the downing of MH17, the anti-Putin protests, and the detention of Pussy Riot.

The panel:

Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan are cofounders of Agentura.Ru and authors of The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB. Soldatov worked for Novaya Gazeta from 2006 to 2008. Agentura.Ru and its reporting have been featured in The New York Times, Moscow Times, Washington Post, Online Journalism Review, Le Monde, The Christian Science Monitor, CNN, Federation of American Scientists, and the BBC.

Edin Omanovic is a Researcher at Privacy International, a London based NGO which investigates state surveillance and the industry which enables it. Omanovic advocates for greater transparency and accountability over the trade and use of surveillance technology, and has published several investigative reports and policy analyses on limiting the trade in surveillance technologies and protecting human rights from unlawful surveillance practices. Omanovic led research on Privacy International’s recent report on the use of Israeli, Russian, and European surveillance technology in Central Asia, Private Interests: Monitoring Central Asia, and was previously a Researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute where he focused on the arms trade and illicit trafficking.

Tonia Samsonova is foreign correspondent for Echo Moskvy. She is also founder of – a popular service that aims to connect people who have questions with those who are able to find answers, and through that interaction create and spread the culture of consciousness.