Russia’s version of the internet is much different from the U.S. and the Western world’s version of the internet already. However, according to various reports, their internet could be looking a lot like China’s much quicker than anticipated.
Currently, Russian citizens are no longer able to use TikTok or Netflix, and Russian users have very limited access to Twitter and Facebook. And information about the reality of the war between Ukraine and Russia is extremely limited.
But, some recent documents show that Russian authorities could have more disconnection in mind. The documents show that the Kremlin is planning to remove itself from the need for Western internet services and to remove itself from the global internet.
If this happens, we could see a digital dark age moving into Russia.
In light of the documents, various reports and stories have begun circling the internet, with the vast majority being extremely inaccurate.
In the released documents, the Kremlin makes it clear that they want government websites to continue to work, despite cyberattacks, which have been launched against Russia since the beginning of the invasion on February 24.
“There are continuous cyberattacks on Russian sites from abroad. We are preparing for different scenarios. There are no plans to disconnect the internet from inside,” explained Andrey Chernenko, the deputy director of the ministry stated in an interview with a Russian news agency, Interfax.
However, they are also pushing websites to use domain name system (DNS) servers in Russia. DNS is used to translate URLs into IP addresses.
This isn’t the beginning of this transition though, as a law was passed in 2019, known as the 2019 sovereign Internet law, which provided the Kremlin with much more control over their internet.
In the law, they set out to build Russian DNS, which would remove them from the global internet. Vice News reports that this law was supposed to have been enforced at the end of 2021, but the infrastructure was never put into place.
Then, on Friday, a law was passed that made it a crime to put out fake news about the invasion of Ukraine, penalizing citizens with up to 15 years of prison time.
Additionally, on top of the restrictions, the Kremlin has implemented, some sites have restricted themselves from Russia, including Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Spotify, and Meta. In the wake of all of this, along with the recently released documents from the Kremlin, it may not be long before we see an entire separation between Russia and the global internet.
“The crisis is definitely a flashpoint, and likely a turning point, for western platforms operating in Russia,” explained Jessica Brandt, a policy director for the Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative at the Brookings Institution explained to CNN Business. “Moscow will no doubt continue pressing platforms to take down unflattering content, using all the leverage at its disposal. If the companies comply, public backlash elsewhere around the world will be intense,” she added.
China currently has what they refer to as the ‘Great Firewall,’ which separates their internet from the rest of the world. And while it seems that Russia intends to do the same, it may be harder considering that Russian citizens have grown accustomed to using tech, much like the rest of the modern world.
Xiaomeng Lu, director of the geo-technology practice for the Eurasia group also spoke with CNN and said, “Completely shutting it down, I think, risks some kind of backlash politically for the government,” and then she went on to say, “that type of fear is losing out to the fear of longer-term regime survival.”
But, even if Russia does decide to continue to use as much of the global internet as possible, various tech companies like Cogent Communications, which is an ‘internet backbone’ company that owns the infrastructure that routes data from continent to continent, has announced that it plans to terminate all contracts with Russian customers.
While this decision won’t cut them off entirely, if other backbone companies worked with Cogent, there could be a devastating impact on Russia’s internet.