Since the beginning of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, technological companies registered in the jurisdictions of the USA, the European Union, and other countries have unanimously withdrawn their services from Russia, canceling accounts of their Russian subscribers. This process involved domain names registries, software developers, gaming platforms, cryptocurrency exchange marketplaces, Internet backbone providers, cloud services, and other digital services.
While we can understand the position of entertainment services who decided to withdraw from Russia, the position of the companies that stopped providing business software raises further doubts. This software helps us to work in teams, to process information, and to work with audiovisual content; moreover, it provides us an opportunity to receive payments anonymously, and guarantees secure work with the data. It also allows access to the websites currently blocked in Russia. While having no access to this business software, the media in Russia find themselves in a difficult situation. On the one hand, we are struggling daily to deal with the unfolding state oppressions; on the other hand, we strive to continue our work despite the unilateral termination of services of the Big Tech companies for the Russian users.
The above-mentioned actions will be worsening the human rights situation in Russia. In cases of administrative or criminal prosecution, censorship, wrongful dismissals, and pressure of authorities at places of work and study, public disclosure, public discussions and access to free information are one of the very few available means of influence on the authorities. Shutdown of the Internet backbone providers may result in slower Internet connection within Russia or lower inaccessibility of foreign domains, which in turn will speed up digital isolation fostered by Russia's authorities.
Subsequently, Russian journalists, anti-war activists and human rights defenders will lose access to the relevant information and would not be able to receive any essential support from abroad. Secure exchange of the information is getting increasingly difficult, and for the Russian Internet users en masse the only available news will soon be spread by the Kremlin-controlled media. Where anti-war voices may not be heard anymore, citizens would lose chances to read, watch and listen to reliable information about the current events.
We are calling the international Big Tech companies not to play a role of an accomplie of the Russian authorities in imposing isolation of the Russian Internet and extermination of any alternative political opinion in the country. We support the previous calls of "Roskomsvoboda" and Access Now and request the actions to save digital freedoms:
An Open Letter of Civil Society to the President of the USA Joe Biden from 10 March 2022A Statement of "Roskomsvoboda" from 7 March 2022
- to secure the Internet connection and provide unimpeded access to the Internet and global digital services for all the Internet users in the territory of the Russian Federation;
- to raise the level of trust between Internet users and to increase security of Internet connection and for the digital exchange of information;
- to create an enabling environment for everyone and to contribute to cultural diversity and mutual respect online;
- to recognize the role of independent media and anti-war campaigns in formation of the current narrative and to encourage international and interregional cooperation.