Russia, Blocked From the Global Internet, Plunges Into Digital Isolation

“For the moment, I plan to work in Russia,” he said. “I don’t know how this could change in the future, especially if YouTube is blocked.”

Unlike China, where local Internet companies have been in power for more than a decade, Russia does not have an equally vibrant local Internet or tech industry.

So since it is locked into its own digital ecosystem, the consequences could be dire. In addition to independent access to information, the future reliability of Internet and telecommunication networks as well as the availability of basic software and services used by businesses and the government is at stake.

Already, Russian telecom companies that operate mobile phone networks no longer have access to new tools and services from companies such as Nokia, Ericsson and Cisco. Attempts by Russian companies to develop new microprocessors were questionable after the Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturing company, the largest manufacturer of essential semiconductors, stopped shipments to the country. Yandex, Russia’s largest Internet company, with a more widely used search engine than Google in Russia, warned that it could default on its debt due to the crisis.

“The entire IT, hardware and software market on which Russia depends is now severely damaged,” said Alexander Herasmenka, a researcher in the program on democracy and technology at the University of Oxford. Russian authorities could respond by relaxing rules that made it illegal to download pirated software, he said.

The Ukrainian government has also pressured Internet service providers to cut off access to Russia. Ukrainian authorities have asked ICANN, a non-profit group that monitors Internet domains, to suspend the Russian Internet domain “.ru”. The nonprofit organization has resisted these requests.

Denis Lyshkov, a self-taught web developer with more than 15 years of experience, said Russia’s censorship campaign was “disastrous” for those who grew up with less restricted internet.

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