Saturday, August 22, 2020

Russian app used by protesters in Belarus, Internet services blocked


The scale of the protests after the presidential elections in Belarus surprised everyone, including Lukashenka himself. The AP agency discovered that their organization was possible thanks to a popular application, Telegram. It is very ironic since it is a Russian app which for a while was rumored to be penetrated and controlled by the KGB. So, the rumors were either not true or Russian KGB is not sharing with Belarusian KGB.

The most important and widely used feature in Telegram is so-called channels. This option allows to send messages to all users who subscribe to a given channel and is often used to create a news channel. 

The most popular channels in Belarus are NEXTA, NEXTA Live and Belarus Mind. After the outbreak of protests, these channels are used by their administrators not only to publish messages encouraging to fight the regime or informing about the current situation, but also to coordinate demonstrations.

Protesters like this app for two main reasons. First, it doesn't require a good internet connection. Following the outbreak of protests in Belarus, there are regular interruptions in the Internet service by the authorities. Telegram, however, works even on very slow connections, thanks to which it allows to download current messages no matter what. The second advantage is that the messages they send are encrypted with very effective algorithms, which means that the Belarusian intelligence services cannot easily monitor the opposition's communications.

In a mean time over 70 websites have been blocked. Among them are opposition media portals - Radio Swaboda, Belsat TV and Euroradio. The human rights website, Wiasna, and the independent Belarusian Association of Journalists is also not working. The websites were blocked by a decision of the Ministry of Information. The reasons for this decision have not yet been presented.