July 29, 2021

Russia tightens control over messaging applications | Technology

Russia tightens control over messaging applications | Technology



Russia maintains its campaign to control the networks. After his failed attempt to veto the use of Telegram, under the focus, the mobile applications of anonymous chat, such as WhatsApp or Viber, are back. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree on Tuesday that obliges mobile telephony operators and companies that own messaging applications to identify their users. In addition, the law, which will take effect in six months, provides that operators must create a database with the chat apps their users use and their identification codes. The Government states that the law aims to create a secure communication environment for users.

The new decree requires users of these applications to be registered with a mobile phone number and operators and apps to verify that their information is true and correct. To download one of these mobile applications you need a code that the app sends to the mobile phone number provided by the user, but it can be any. When the decree enters into force, telephone operators must confirm within 20 minutes that this number is authentic and corresponds to the indicated user. If it does not, the user will be blocked, according to the regulation published on the website of the Russian Government.

The state telecommunications regulator, Roskomnadzor, quoted by Russian media, has assured that the measure will facilitate the police authorities to investigate crimes. The main messaging applications have not yet reacted to the new measure that, according to experts, could mean the loss of thousands of customers who do not meet the requirements.

The new regulation supposes another maneuver to contain and control the use of these applications messaging Last April, a Moscow court ordered the blocking of the Telegram application at the request of the Russian authorities, after the company refused to give the intelligence services the encryption keys to access the messages of several users.

The blockade of the app, created by the Russian Pavel Durov and with more than 15 million users in the country (of the around 200 that it has in the whole world), caused that the vindication of the freedom in Internet was put almost to the head of the demonstrations for Labor Day this year. And tens of thousands of people charged against the blockade on the streets across the country.

However, despite the fact that it suspended some 18 million IP addresses and a large number of VPNs (Virtual Private Network, which allows to evade the control of regulatory bodies), Russia has failed to block the use of Telegram. The technical maneuvers to 'hide' in third-party servers has made the app continue to work. Along the way, however, other apps or websites – such as Gmail chat, Viber chat or Amazon – have been affected by the block.

Russia – almost 145 million inhabitants – is among the worst in the world in the censorship of the Network. It ranks 53 (out of 65) in the latest index on Internet freedom prepared by the NGO Freedom House and made public a few days ago; behind countries like Thailand and Gambia. In fact, Russia, defined as "not free" falls for the sixth consecutive year in this index, which measures criteria such as content censorship, control of networks and various rights violations.

Activists and organizations such as Freedom House are particularly concerned about Telegram's veto attempt and the adoption of other anti-terrorism laws that require operators to store user communications for six months. Also other that allow blocking messaging networks and services if through them information is disseminated that any body of the legislative power, according to its own criteria and interests, consider as not reliable or falsified.

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