Yet the Kremlin’s latest censorship efforts have revealed serious shortcomings in the government’s bigger plans to straightjacket the internet. Any Russian with a modicum of tech smarts can circumvent government efforts to starve Russians of fact.
Long before waging war on Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin was working to make Russia’s internet a powerful tool of surveillance and social control akin to China’s so-called Great Firewall, AP reports.
So when Western tech companies began cutting ties with Russia following its invasion, Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov was alarmed. He’d spent years exposing Russian censorship and feared that well-intentioned efforts to aid Ukraine would instead help Putin isolate Russians from the free flow of information, aiding the Kremlin’s propaganda war.
“Look, guys the only space the Russians have to talk about Ukraine. and what is going on in Russia. is Facebook,” Soldatov, now exiled in London. wrote on Facebook in the war’s first week. “You cannot just, like, kill our access.”
Facebook didn’t, although the Kremlin soon picked up that baton, throttling both Facebook and Twitter so badly they are effectively unreachable on the Russian internet. Putin has also blocked access to both Western media and independent news sites in the country, and a new law criminalizes spreading information that contradicts the government’s line. On Friday, the Kremlin said it would also restrict access to Instagram. By early Monday, the network monitor NetBlocks reported the social network throttled across multiple Russian internet providers.
© Copyright LaPresse