On May 3rd, 2018, Russia’s media and communication regularity authority Roskomnadzor blocked over 50 virtual private networks (VPNs), Web Proxies and Anonymizers in the country amid its crackdown against the Telegram messaging service.
So far, there has been no official announcement from Roskomnadzor but the Russian News Agency TASS has confirmed the censorship and reported that the decision affects those services which provided access to Telegram app.
It must be noted that last week, the Telegram app was blocked by the Russian government in April after it declined the request of handing over encryption keys of its users to Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia for investigation purposes.
However, in their attempt to block Telegram, authorities found they could only block specific IP addresses allowing users to simply switch to another IP address or use VPN to download, sign up and use the app. Moreover, Russian authorities also blocked millions of IP addresses owned by Google and Amazon since they were used by Telegram.
“The Russian government is failing in their task to block the app. Telegram app has only become more popular in Russia with many more downloads compared to the week before, and the government has shown its complete lack of understanding of how the technology works,” said Marty P Kamden, CMO at NordVPN.
Viber app ban might be coming soon
While the Russian government is struggling to ban the Telegram app, its next target could be Viber, a Japanese owned popular cross-platform instant messaging and voice over IP (VoIP) application. According to TASS, Nikolai Anatolyevich Nikiforov, the Minister of Communications and Mass Media of Russia did not rule out that Viber could be blocked if the FSB have problems with obtaining encryption keys for its investigation.
At the time of publishing this article, names of blocked anonymity services were unknown. However, the ongoing censorship should not come as a surprise since the country has a history of blocking online platforms especially before and during elections.
According to the Moscow Times, a report compiled by The international human rights group Agora revealed that out of more than 115,000 cases of Internet censorship in 2017, 110,000 were related to blocked websites, with an average 244 web pages being blocked per day by the authorities in 2017.