Russia intensifies efforts to control internet

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In the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the Kremlin has been intensifying its efforts to assert control over the internet within its borders.

Developments such as the detainment of Russian human rights activist Alexey Sokolov for displaying Facebook symbols, exemplify Russia’s approach. The Russian government has also acquired technology to block websites and apps based on their protocols, potentially limiting access to services like YouTube, WhatsApp, and Telegram.

The situation escalated after Meta, the parent company of Facebook, was labeled a terrorist organization by Russia due to alleged “Russophobia” during the Ukraine invasion. Popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have since been banned, and can only be accessible only through VPNs.

Russia has long aspired to establish an autonomous internet, often referred to as the Runet, adhering to Russian laws independently from the global web. Recent years have brought this vision closer to reality, as Western tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, and Google limited their services in Russia, urging users to switch to local alternatives.

Russia’s path to an autonomous internet is fraught with challenges like high cost of Russian-made software. Another challenge is that adopting Russian tech isn’t straightforward. The transition often involves changing information technology infrastructure and adapting to new interfaces, formats, and fonts. In certain sectors, such as banking, Russian alternatives fall short of their Western counterparts.

To combat this, the Kremlin is pushing for “import substitution,” compelling local businesses and state agencies to embrace domestic tech. It has also mandated that government agencies must fully abandon foreign software by 2025.

The sources for this piece include an article in TheRecord.

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