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Friday, May 20, 2022

Bans do not help against the Internet

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Don’t be mean to a thing, even a good one. This requirement of the former “Mr. Tagesschau” Hanns Joachim Friedrichs may have to be expanded by an addition. Nothing can be stopped in a free internet, even the bad ones.

In the West it is easy to publish a report like this, according to which the journalist organization Reporters Without Borders has managed to circumvent the Deutsche Welle online ban in Russia by using mirror servers.

If he then succeeds in spreading this good news through skillful and better-secure communication via encrypted messaging services, he may even outsmart Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor in the media war unfolding in parallel to the attack on Ukraine.

[Alle aktuellen Nachrichten zum russischen Angriff auf die Ukraine bekommen Sie mit der Tagesspiegel-App live auf ihr Handy. Hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen.]

Behind the message is the realization that there is no shortage of opportunities to circumvent the very clumsy Internet bans. The effect of a geofilter is also limited by VPN networks or the use of a Tor browser. Deutsche Welle explains in detail what needs to be considered.

Certainly, using these media requires a willingness to deal with some technical terms, even as a technical layman. But it is by no means rocket science. A little tip: if Tor Browser doesn’t work the first time you access a blocked page, just use the “New Identity” option and it should work.

The other side of the coin

However, this currency has a disadvantage: what helps against Russian bans is even easier to achieve in the West, because in democratic countries the Internet bandwidth is not reduced simply to prevent access to videos and images. That is why it is technically almost impossible for the German media authorities or the European Union to enforce the ban on Russia Today.

The work of journalists can be hampered. The new harsh sanctions against the alleged disparagement of the Russian military is a tried and tested means for media professionals in Russia, whether domestic or foreign.

However, the work of an editorial team outside its own territory cannot be prevented. This also applies to RT.DE programs created in Moscow and their Internet feed.

European media watchdogs still have the option to remove Russia Today from the central domain name server registry. But as with Deutsche Welle, this makes access more difficult, but not impossible. Instructions for this can also be easily searched on Google.

Banning RT ensures that no one stumbles upon the voice of Moscow by chance. Anyone still accessing RT.DE news believes the lying propaganda or wants to know what claims Putin uses to justify his invasion of Ukraine to see through the perfidy behind it.

Technically, the ban on Russia Today may therefore be mostly symbolic. But such symbols are also necessary to make it clear to Putin where his limits lie.

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