Is Internet Isolationism Possible?

Technology Policy Brief #57 | By: JA Angelo | April 14, 2022

Header photo taken from: E&T Magazine – IET




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Russian disinformation campaigns change tack to get around western defences.

Photo taken from: Financial Times

Policy Summary

Internet isolation has been the talk of the block recently as Russia continues to invade Ukraine. However, many do not know what internet isolationism means. Isolationism is an international relations term used to describe a country that cuts itself off from the outside world. Therefore, internet isolationism is when a country prevents the use of the Internet to disseminate outside information to its citizens. North Korea already practices internet isolationism, as do China and Iran, to a lesser degree. Russian Federation President Putin is trying to also adopt this practice

Many American digital giants like Microsoft, Netflix, Minecraft, Apple, Samsung,  have discontinued service in Russia. In turn, Russia  placed a digital barrier on the rest of the world. This was accomplished by using internet censorship equipment  to censor the news and other programs that foment dissent .

It also is likely likely that Russia will censor or prevent YouTube from reaching Russians who depend on various channels for unbiased news on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

However it is still possible for those in Russia to spread what Putin calls “misinformation” about the Ukraine invasion. Those hoping to report the truth and avoid prison can do so through YouTube, bouncing VPN and IP addresses off of various satellites and receivers, or by means of crossing borders via messengers for others to report in a bordering country. Journalists and others face stiff prison sentences if they are found guilty of this crime under a new censorship law that was passed recently by the State Duma and the Federation Council. Many feel this is a return of the Soviet Union of the 1980s.

Policy Analysis

If Russia continues down this trajectory, it is very possible that Putin’s actions will push the region back into the information dark ages. This could enable Putin to turn Russians against the western world as he would blame us for Russia’s troubles. This reentry into the information dark ages would very likely ruin Russia’s economy more than any sanctions.

We need to address this Russian Internet isolation by responding as a global front against Russia, more specifically, Putin. We can accomplish this by providing technological equipment (e.g., emergency broadcast radios, satellite phones, antennas, and loudspeakers to Russian journalists, such as Aleksei Pivovarov, who seek to report the truth about Putin and his inner circle of oligarchs.

In March, Putin Signed ‘Harsh’ Law Allowing Long Prison Terms For ‘False News’ About Army.

Photo taken from: Radio Free Europe

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The region has worked extraordinarily hard to put the turmoil resulting from the Soviet Union behind them. We cannot allow the area to once again enter a time of Stalin’s Gulag and other communists practices. By providing this equipment to unbiased Russian journalists, we could possibly turn the tide on Putin’s war!

Engagement Resources​

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Aleksei Pivovarov started a YouTube channel after leaving his journalism career due to a rise in censorship. He started his YouTube channel to report on news without censorship. He is the general producer of RTVi. The channel broadcasts in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Georgia, the Baltic States, Germany, Israel, the United Kingdom, Spain, the USA, Canada and Australia. Currently, the channel has three million subscribers. 

YouTube, which is owned by Google, has prevented Russian YouTube accounts from making money from videos. Aleksei plans to continue broadcasting his channel, but fears for his life. It is likely he will flee to a neighboring NATO country to continue his channel outside of Russia. 

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