Roskomnadzor, Russia’s internet censorship authority, is creating a neural network that will employ AI to scan websites for inappropriate content.
The “Oculus” automatic scanner scans webpages, forums, social networking sites, chat channels, as well as videos for anything that has to be redacted or removed.
The “propaganda” for homosexuality, guidelines for developing weapons or drugs, and false material that discredits official state and army sources are a few examples of content that Oculus targets.
Additionally, the system will search for requests for large-scale protests, criticism of the government, and even “signs” of terrorism and extremism.
The supplier, Eksikyushn RDC LLC, will deploy 48 servers with potent GPUs to achieve Oculus’ real-time scanning capabilities of 200,000 photos/day or roughly 2.3 images/second.
In order to give the government a solid grasp on managing the flow of information, Oculus will be incorporated into the Unified Analysis Module, a network of monitoring systems under development.
Timeline challenge and risky proposition
Oculus will cost Russia 57.7 million rubles (that is $965,000), and as per Kommersant, who looked into the contract requirements, it must be finished by December 12, 2022.
But industry analysts point out that this sum is inadequate to cover the costs of building such an interesting project and it’s probable that Roskomnadzor would need to set aside extra funds along the process.
Additionally, it is unrealistic to anticipate the machine learning system to be trained in just 4 months for a task this complicated to have detection accuracy exceeding 90%.
As a result, Oculus will probably generate a lot of false alarms during the first few months of operation, putting Russian internet customers in jeopardy of unfair prosecution.
The Russian parliament approved a law in March 2022 that effectively makes disseminating false information a crime, punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
However, having an unreliable “all-seeing eye” that puts innocent people in serious legal problems is very unsettling for all people using the internet in the nation.
Keeping a low profile around Oculus
Users will inevitably stop participating in online discussions as a result of the introduction of Oculus or switch to anonymization technologies like VPNs, the Tor network, or chat applications that don’t ask for PII when signing up and don’t keep track of user data.
Despite the Roskomnador-imposed limitations in 2021, Top10VPN reports that the demand for VPN services in Russia surged by 2,692% between February and March 2022.
Even Russian governmental agencies spent about $8 million on VPN services to assist them get around severe web censorship and access limitations, according to information from publicly available state spending data.