Russian company “Oculus” will use AI to search websites for banned content

Roskomnadzor, Russia’s internet censorship authority, is creating a neural network that will use AI to scan websites for inappropriate content.

The “Oculus” automatic scanner scans web pages, forums, social networking sites, chat channels, as well as videos for anything that needs to be redacted or removed.

“Propaganda” for homosexuality, guidelines for the development of weapons or drugs, and false documents that discredit official state and military sources are some examples of content targeted by Oculus.

Additionally, the system will look for requests for large-scale protests, criticism of the government, and even “signs” of terrorism and extremism.

The vendor, Eksikyushn RDC LLC, will deploy 48 servers with powerful GPUs to achieve Oculus’ real-time scanning capabilities of 200,000 photos/day or approximately 2.3 frames/second.

To give the government a solid grasp on managing the flow of information, Oculus will be integrated with the Unified Analytics Module, a network of surveillance systems currently in development.

Chronological challenge and risky proposition

Oculus will cost Russia 57.7 million rubles ($965,000), and according to Kommersant, who reviewed the contract requirements, it must be completed by December 12, 2022.

But industry analysts point out that this sum is insufficient to cover the construction costs of such an interesting project and it is likely that Roskomnadzor will have to set aside additional funds throughout the process.

Moreover, it is unrealistic to expect that the machine learning system will be trained in just 4 months for such a complicated task to have detection accuracy above 90%.

As a result, Oculus will likely generate a lot of false alerts in the first few months of operation, putting Russian internet customers at risk of unfair lawsuits.

Russia’s parliament approved a law in March 2022 that makes spreading false information a crime, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

However, having an unreliable “all-seeing eye” that gets innocent people into serious legal trouble is very troubling for everyone using the internet in the country.

Lay low around Oculus

Users will inevitably stop participating in online chats following the introduction of Oculus or switch to anonymization technologies like VPNs, the Tor network, or chat apps that don’t ask for PII on signup. and do not keep track of user data. .

Despite limitations imposed by Roskomnador in 2021, Top10VPN reports that demand for VPN services in Russia jumped 2,692% between February and March 2022.

Even Russian government agencies have spent around $8 million on VPN services to help them circumvent harsh web censorship and access limitations, according to information from public spending data.

About Stuart M. McFarland

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