The Russian ‘splinternet’ is here

The Russian ‘splinternet’ is here. By Emily Birnbaum.

This week the Kremlin throttled and restricted U.S. social media, then on Friday blocked Facebook altogether. At the same time, U.S. internet provider Cogent — one of the largest carriers in Russia — said it was cutting its service from the country. And the smartphone market is shrinking after Apple announced it will no longer sell its products in Russia.

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is accelerating a technological isolation in Russia …

It’s bringing Putin’s Russia many steps closer to a so-called splinternet, in which the West and Russia operate in different online spheres.

The blocking of social media platforms is particularly significant because they provide one of the few remaining sources of outside news that are independent of the Russian state government and its media outlets,which have been spreading disinformation and propaganda justifying the invasion. …

Putin has been steadily pushing to disentangle Russia’s internet ecosystem from the rest of the world’s for years, experts said, which means the latest shutdowns are likely to last even beyond the crisis in Ukraine.

“For Putin, this is the last 10 yards of a years-long push to lock down Russia’s information space from not only Western and foreign influence, but even for many opposition or independent elements domestically,” said Gavin Wilde, a former National Security Council official focused on Russia…

But it’s not all the Kremlin’s doing. Some U.S. tech companies are also pulling their products and services from the country to appease wary investors and prevent the Russian government from spreading misinformation through their channels. Microsoft and Apple have suspended new sales of their products, including iPhones and business software, in the country. Oracle has shut down its Russian cloud service operations. …

Three internets?

Russia differentiated itself from China, another country with an authoritarian regime, by allowing the U.S. tech companies to operate on Russian soil in the first place. (Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms are blocked in China.) The tech industry’s latest departures from Russia indicate that Russia is heading down a path similar to China’s. …

“There’s no question that the internet is fractured along the border with China,” Wilde said. “Now not only the internet, but media writ large is fracturing along the border with Russia.”

And Russia has been investing in its own internet ecosystem for years. With the support of the Kremlin, Russians have created their own social media platforms to compete with Western social media, which allows the Russian government to have more control over what’s said online. Yandex provides an array of vital internet services, including search, e-commerce and online advertising. Social networking site VK even looks like a Facebook clone, imitating the companies’ blue and white interface.

Still, YouTube remains the most important social media platform in Russia, with 80 to 85 percent of Russian internet users on the video-streaming platform. Facebook itself is not as popular, but its photo platform Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp serve as vital communications networks for Russians. The Russian government has not blocked Google’s YouTube, WhatsApp or Instagram, but experts said it’s likely that the companies will either pull out or the Kremlin will force them out.

There are rumors that Russia is going to disconnect from the Internet entirely in a few days, and just run its own internal internet. Even more severe than China.

Obviously censorship is central to modern political authority.

Is that why the western left is so keen to censor and cancel non-conformists in the West? Just asking for a friend.