As Russia Bans Foreign Messaging Apps, State-Approved Alternatives Swoop In
Today the law banning the use of many foreign private messaging applications in the Russian government and state agencies was enacted.
The law, called, "On information, information technology, and information protection", prohibits Russian agencies from using information exchange systems owned by foreign entities.
Roskomnadzor, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media in Russia published an alert to its portal warning that the ban will begin to be enforced. Roskomnadzor, established in 2008 by a Presidential decree, is a regulatory agency responsible for overseeing and enforcing laws related to communications, information technology, and mass media in the country.
In recent years, Roskomnadzor has gained international attention for its efforts to block access to foreign websites and services, including social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. The agency has also been criticized for its role in enforcing controversial laws related to internet censorship and surveillance in Russia.
The banned messaging platforms mentioned by Roskomnadzor include the following:
Skype for Business
Interestingly, the popular encrypted messaging app, Signal, is not listed.
The Kremlin, looking to tamp down on sensitive information leakages, has also moved to restrict VPN usage. Last month, the State Duma proposed the creation of a nationalized VPN and in September 2022, also introduced "domestic software" incentives that promote using Russian Linux-based operating systems like Astra Linux, ALT OS, and Red OS in government and public service organizations.
In the near term, the Kremlin will likely turn to other applications like TamTam - a messenger app similar to Telegram, but owned by Mail.ru, a company with alleged ties to the government.
Mail.ru Group also owns Vkontakte (VK), by far the region's most popular social media site. VK Messenger includes features such as end-to-end encryption for one-on-one chats and the ability to hide chats behind a password or fingerprint.
However, as with other VKontakte products, there have been concerns about the potential for government surveillance or censorship on the platform.