Russia’s internet censorship machine: Playstor – RuStore, Instagram – RuGram

Russia is quietly ramping up its internet censorship machine: Finally, Shakirov said, there is “limitation of access to information”—blocking websites. The legal ability to block websites was implemented with the passage of Russia’s Sovereign Internet Law in 2016, and since then, Russia has been expanding its technological capabilities to block sites. “Now the opportunities to restrict access are developing very rapidly,” Shakirov said.

RUNET isolated itself for internet censorship

The Sovereign Internet Act helps create the idea of ​​RuNet, a Russian Internet that can be disconnected from the rest of the world. Since the war on Ukraine began in late February, more than 2,384 sites have been blocked in Russia, according to the analysis. Top 10 VPN. These range from independent Russian news websites and Ukrainian domains to big tech and foreign news sites.

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“The Russian government is constantly trying to have more control over the content people can access,” said Grant Baker, technology and democracy research associate at the nonprofit Freedom House.  All Internet regulatory measures and surveillance systems, Baker said, include broader social clampdowns. Detention of more than 16,000 peaceful protesters And yet The use of face recognition has increased.

But building a surveillance empire is not straightforward. China is widely regarded as the most restrictive online country in the world, with its Great Firewall blocking websites outside its political purview. This Chinese “sovereign” model of the Internet took years to develop The creator of China’s firewall is reportedly getting around it using a VPN.

Russia To Adopt China Statergy For Complete internet censorship

As Russia aims to somewhat emulate this Chinese model, it has faltered. When authorities tried to block messaging app Telegram in 2018, They failed miserably And He gave up after two years. Building out RuNet’s Russia focus has encountered several delays. However, most of Russia’s recent policy pronouncements are not designed for the short term—regulating the Internet is a long-term project. Some actions may never exist.

“Given the often blurred distinction between clear political signaling and ambition from the Kremlin and its effective translation into concrete projects and changes, it is still difficult to assess all these actions in detail,” said senior associate Julian Nosetti. A fellow at the French Institute of International Relations, he studies Russia’s Internet.

Russia Launched – RosGram, RuStore

For example, multiple Russian-language app stores have appeared in recent months, but most of them have few apps available for download. According to an independent newspaper Moscow TimesA leading app store competitor, RuStore, has less than 1,000 apps available for download.

Other attempts at a sovereign internet have also failed. rutube, Russia’s equivalent of YouTube, authorities promoted its use but failed to gain popularity. Meanwhile, the website of Rosgram. A potential Instagram alternative, which has yet to be launched, displays a message that says it is “under development” and warns people not to download versions of the app they find online that “come from scammers”.

While many of Russia’s sovereign internet efforts have struggled to get off the ground, its ability to block websites has improved since then. The first attempt was made to overthrow Twitter in March 2021. And other countries are watching. “Countries are learning different Internet control methods from each other,” Shakirov said. “Russia has decided to build its Chinese version of the Internet, and now other countries in the post-Soviet space, Africa or Latin America can follow this example.”

Lokot said that as more countries look to regulate the Internet and put their national security in mind, the Internet itself is at risk. “When the conversation shifts from ‘the public good of the Internet’ to ‘the Internet and Internet access, in relation to national security,’ the questions change,” Lokot said. “We look at some really problematic choices made by states—and not just by authoritarian states, but democratic states as well.”

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