Russia says Facebook outage shows why it needs internet sovereignty

FAN Editor
St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF)
FILE PHOTO: Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova attends a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, June 3, 2021. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

October 5, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian social networks reported a spike in activity during Monday’s global Facebook outage which Moscow officials said showed that Russia was right to develop its own sovereign internet platforms and social networks.

Russia has sought for years to assert greater sovereignty over its internet segment, putting pressure on foreign tech firms to delete content and store data in Russia. It has also improved its ability to block platforms that break its rules.

Maria Zakharova, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said during the near six-hour outage of Facebook services on Monday evening that this “answers the question of whether we need our own social networks and internet platforms”.

Facebook blamed its outage, which kept its 3.5 billion users from accessing services such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger, on a faulty configuration change.

Russia’s largest home-grown social network, Vkontakte, has far more daily users in the country than Facebook and reported a spike in messages and users after Facebook’s services dropped.

“The number of Vkontakte video views increased by 18% and the number of messages sent in messenger by 21%,” the Izvestia newspaper cited Marina Krasnova, head of the social network, as saying.

She said the site’s audience had jumped by 19% in comparison with the day before.

Odnoklassniki, another popular social network, said activity on its site had increased during the Facebook outage, the RIA news agency reported.

Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki are owned by Russian tech firm Mail.Ru.

Russia disconnected itself from the global internet during tests earlier this year, part of a push to shield the country from being cut off from foreign infrastructure.

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow and Maria Vasilyeva; Editing by Tom Balmforth and Giles Elgood)

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