The Russian government has passed new legislation prohibiting its officials from using messaging apps created and operated by foreign companies. The move is part of a broader crackdown on foreign technology services in Russia that has been ongoing for years.
The new law’s Article 10 – On Information, Information Technologies, and Information Protection – applies to government agencies and groups, with parts 8-10 outlining the specific restrictions. The following applications are now prohibited for government officials: Discord, Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Snapchat, Telegram, Threema, Viber, WhatsApp, and WeChat. The list is not exhaustive, with Zoom and Signal currently exempt but potentially subject to future inclusion.
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The restrictions aim to reduce the possibility of sensitive information reaching Ukraine’s allies, as US-led intelligence revealed Russian plans during the war, including the initial invasion. The Kremlin hopes to reduce its strategic and geopolitical disadvantage through this measure.
However, this move can also be seen as an attempt by the Putin administration to suppress criticism and control the media narrative. The government uses compliant state media channels and 24-hour television propaganda, but younger Russians are more likely to get their news online, posing a danger to the regime.
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Telegram was officially banned in Russia in 2018, and hundreds of news websites and foreign social networking platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are currently blocked. The government has also attempted to restrict the use of VPNs and Tor, commonly used to circumvent such restrictions.
The ban on foreign messaging apps for government officials is the latest in a series of efforts by the Putin administration to tighten control over the flow of information in Russia. While it aims to protect the country’s interests, it may also fuel concerns over the government’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies.
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