As Russia blocked access to Meta Platforms Inc.’s flagship social networking platforms, Facebook and Instagram increased the demand for Internet users as a tool to avoid restrictions, data from a monitoring company showed.
Russia’s access to Russia has been cut off since Monday, in response to Meta’s ability to send messages such as “Death to the Russian invaders” to Ukrainian social media users last week. Facebook has already banned Moscow because it said there were restrictions on access to Russian media.
On the eve of the Instagram ban, the demand for virtual private networks (VPNs) that encrypt data and obscure the user’s location rose 2,088 percent more than the average daily demand in mid-February, according to data from Top10VPN monitoring company.
Russia has received unprecedented Western sanctions for its actions in Ukraine and is struggling to control the flow of information, with foreign social media companies slowing down traffic and, in the case of Facebook and Instagram, with outright bans.
The demand for VPNs has already risen in the region, as websites in Russia and Ukraine have been the victims of cyber attacks.
Russia banned several VPNs last year, but did not completely block them because critical parts of a wider campaign are stifling Internet freedom.
Top10VPN’s analysis of data from more than 6,000 entries in Russia’s central register of blocked websites found that 203 news sites and 97 foreign exchange and crypto sites were blocked in Russia.
State communications regulator Roskomnadzor said on Monday that the number of cyber attacks on the Russian government’s IT systems and infrastructure had increased significantly since February 24.
He warned the perpetrators that cyberattacks could have criminal consequences.
© Thomson Reuters 2022