For those that aren’t aware, the Russia government is quite angry with Amazon and Google over the encrypted messaging app Telegram. The Russian FSB and similar outfits have launched an all-out offensive against the messaging service, citing security concerns in an attempt to silence dissent and ferret out those that the Russian government wants to surveil. The app has more than 13 million users, and the ban against it’s use has seen a growing wave of criticism and protests breaking out.
And in this ongoing struggle between activists and government repression, gamers have been caught in the crossfire. Roskomnadzor, the federal body in Russia responsible for censorship in media, has been collaborating with the Russian government in few different ways.
Telegram tried to thwart the blockage by shifting its service to two giant American web hosts, Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services, while at the same time repeatedly changing its IP address to stay ahead of the crackdown. To counter this attempt at evasion, Roskomnadzor has decided to block entire IP subnets belonging to Google and Amazon Web Services (AWS). In total, more than 20 million IPs have been blocked since April 17th.
The first major complication for gamers from these blocks is that a wide variety of gaming services use AWS or Google services to host various forms of infrastructure. So now Russian gamers can’t connect to things like chat channels in EVE Online or other MMOs. And some players couldn’t login to Guild Wars 2 at all. The worst part is that list of affected services just seems to keep growing.
“Users reported crashes of various services such as Microsoft and Windows updates; gaming networks like Playstation Network, Battle.net, and Xbox Live; online games by publisher Wargaming, Android apps client APK Mirror; video streaming services Netflix and Twitch.tv; online retailers, and many others,” reported Coin Telegraph.
And to make matters worse, RKN isn’t letting up anytime soon. Russian government and security services are notoriously slow to negotiate and it will likely be some time before users in Russia will be allowed to operate normally. And given the history of Pavel Durov (Telegram CEO) and his outspoken right-wing views that are at odds with the authoritarian-right politics of Putin, there won’t be any budge from his side either. It seems like the Kremlin will be at an impasse for the foreseeable future.
It must be said that this feels like really terrible timing on the part of the Russian state. These attempts at suppression will play very poorly in the west, and the US media establishment will no doubt seize on the opportunity for spin and propaganda given the constant presence of anti-Russia agitation in US media following the election of Donald Trump as president.