Russia Does It Again – Foreign Messaging Apps Banned in Government Organizations

Social media applications have added convenience to our lives in so many ways. However, in some countries, they’re not as welcome as we might think. Russia, in particular, strictly implements data retention and filtering laws. And now, it’s getting worse with the decision to ban foreign messaging apps in government organizations.

Russia Bans Messaging Apps

The country’s internet watchdog agency Roskomnadzor has a reputation for doing whatever it takes to isolate Russia from the rest of the world. Apparently, this time around, it’s no different.

Yes, Roskomnadzor warned that laws preventing individuals from using foreign messaging applications within the Russian government and state agencies came into force on March 1st, 2023, and here’s what we know about it.

No Foreign Apps – Russia’s Banning Expands

The internet is advancing, but apparently, using it freely is not. Yes, global internet freedom has taken a step backward – at least in some countries.

Banning or limiting access to specific websites/services can come for various reasons. Whether it’s for the sake of promoting a safer online experience or dealing with illegal content, it’s inevitable.

There are those reasons that can be quite logical, but then again, there are those that only benefit the country – not the citizen.

Russia, one of the most internet-restricting countries in the world, increasingly blocks access to various social media platforms every now and then.

Back in 2021, the country blocked access to BBC News and restricted the use of Twitter. A year later, during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, these restrictions skyrocketed in terms of numbers.

Russia Banned the use of Facebook and Twitter amid the invasion of Ukraine. Now, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) has issued a warning that it’s against the law to use foreign messaging apps within Russian organizations.

“The law establishes a ban for a number of Russian organizations on the use of foreign messengers (information systems and computer programs owned by foreign persons that are designed and (or) used for exchanging messages exclusively between their users, in which the sender determines the recipients of messages and does not provide for placement by Internet users publicly available information on the Internet).”

The full warning (Russian) is presented in the image above. We translated the entire section in case Russian is not your first language.

In the March 1st warning, the following applications should not be used within Russian organizations:

  • Discord (San Francisco, U.S)
  • Microsoft Teams (American platform)
  • Skype for Business (Owned by Microsoft)
  • Snapchat (American instant messaging app)
  • Telegram (Dubai-based app)
  • Threema (Swiss-based application)
  • Viber (Japanese-owned app)
  • WhatsApp (Facebook-owned end-to-end encrypted messaging app)
  • WeChat (Chinese instant messaging app)

Russia is very cautious when it comes to social media applications. That’s why, every now and then, it limits the use of foreign software in areas where sensitive information should be protected from international intelligence.

Individuals who don’t like to be prone to these restrictions use Virtual Private Networks to bypass them. However, even VPNs have had their fair share of bans in the country.

Russia’s State Duma (Russia’s Federal Assembly) even proposed creating a national VPN for those who live inside the country. It’s not to help them circumvent restrictions; it’s to prevent any scrutiny evasion in their communications.

Russia vs. Messaging Apps – Online Isolation Initiated

Russia’s banning habit started a long time ago, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. The country’s authorities blacked/removed over 138,000 websites since the invasion of Ukraine began back in 2022.

Russia doesn’t limit the use of everything foreign. But with the route it’s taking in terms of bans, it’s definitely getting there.

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