On the evening of January 30, Russian Internet users began to complain that many popular sites for, among other things, online shopping and banking suddenly stopped working. The sites were down for several hours.
For several years, the Russian state has been working to create its own infrastructure for the Russian part of the Internet – easier said than done because the Internet is global.
Experiments may have led to unrest
One of the stated goals is to move all Russian Internet traffic to servers inside Russia, officially to protect Russia from cyberattacks.
– It is possible that this experiment led to the unrest, Sarkis Darbingan tells SVT.
He is one of the founders of the organization Roskomsvoboda, which works to protect the digital rights of Russians. It is supported by other Russian IT experts.
This is how Russians are restricted on the Internet
In 2019, Russia passed a law popularly known as the “Sovereign Internet Law.” The country's Internet operators were forced to install a new central technical system, which makes it possible to block all or part of Internet traffic with one click.
The authorities are exploiting new opportunities. At the beginning of the year, 4G service coverage was interrupted in several regions, and during a protest in the Bashkir Republic, people complained that messaging applications, which protesters used to coordinate, were interrupted.
“More are trying to find ways around it all.”
Before the Russian presidential elections in March, Sarkis Darbingan believes that the authorities will throttle the Internet more than once in order to stop any protests. However, he does not believe that the Russian state intends to completely prevent Russians from accessing information on foreign websites.
– Russians are used to internet freedom, and every time a major site is blocked, it always leads to more people trying to find ways around it.
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