April 16, 2024
  • Russia blocks WhatsApp and Telegram in Bashkortostan province during protests.
  • Effective from March 1, all VPN apps in Russia have been banned
  • The country is building a government-controlled Internet similar to and better than China

Russia Enters A New Age Of Digital Censorship

As Russia heads into another voting season, digital censorship is on the rise. The country is now following in the footsteps of China and Iran to establish a locally-controlled internet system in the country.

Russia is notoriously known for hacking and digital surveillance for more than decades. However, the level of blocking in the last six months has shocked even the most seasoned experts.

The country has gone a step ahead to block access to apps altogether in times of desperation. Russia limited access to WhatsApp and Telegram in the following provinces in January during protests

  • Bashkortostan
  • Dagestan
  • Yakutia

Both Meta and Telegram did not comment on this matter. Experts believe that this is a ‘significant achievement’ for the Russian government.

Since these social apps are used by millions, throttling or controlling them is more difficult than controlling the Internet altogether. Also, these apps play a crucial role in day-to-day communications.

The situation got so bad that people started leaving messages on local politicians’ social media pages, requesting them to turn the services back on.

This only goes to show the effectiveness of such targeted bans at times of political uncertainty. It is a tried and tested way of keeping people in the dark when it matters the most.

Similarly, following an order effective from March 1, 2024, all VPN apps have been removed from the Russian app market. Although some VPNs still work, they are very difficult to find.

Earlier in 2022, you could easily find a VPN service and somewhat get around whatever censorship the Putin government imposed. However, as global and domestic tensions have risen, censorship has become more strict, and finding a VPN in Russia today is like finding a needle in a haystack.

This censorship also comes at a crucial time of the untimely death of Aleksei A. Navalny, the leader of the opposition party in Russia. He died on 16 February in jail under undisclosed circumstances.

Since then, there have been protests around the country and an urge to vote Putin out of power. There’s also mass discontent among Russians regarding the ongoing war with Ukraine.

Putin, however, seems to have mastered China’s art of isolating protestors.

As Ksenia Ermoshina, a Russian censorship expert, put it “People protest when they see other people protesting”.

And by limiting to essential social media apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, Russia curbs the spread of these protests. A significant fraction of people in Russia have decided to stand in long lines on election day and vote against Putin to show the world the dire state of the country.

However, with controlled internet and throttled connection, it is quite possible that those protesting images never reach the rest of the world.

Read More: Russia-backed hacker group continues to exploit Microsoft’s internal systems

China’s Influence on Russia’s Censorship

Russia seems to have learned the tricks of the trade from the master itself — China. It all started in 2016 when Russian officials met Fang Binxing,  the man behind China’s infamous Great Firewall. They met again in 2017 and 2019 discussing topics like:

  • Fighting encryption data flow
  • Curtailing protests
  • Blocking foreign sites
  • Restricting internet access
  • Building government-controlled internet
  • Controlling VPNs

Besides this, telecom operators are being forced to employ extra surveillance at transnational internet cable points in Russia.

As per Yegor Sak, Windscribe (one of the best VPN services) founder, the level of Russian censorship has now surpassed that of China.

With elections just around the corner, it will be interesting to see if these censorships continue to be employed post-Putin’s re-election as President. If so, Russia may be heading into a decade of government-controlled Internet.

Read More: Russian hackers attack foreign diplomats in Ukraine using cheap BMW ad

free coins
free coinsfree coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins
free coins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *