April 2018: the Russian Internet (RuNet) watchdog Roskomnadzor (RKN) orders to block the popular Telegram messenger. RuNet users respond with an unprecedented wave of actions, ranging from satirical memes to flashmobs and rallies. The movement for the defense of Telegram, quickly baptized “Digital resistance”, has a rich “e-repertoire of contention”, inspiring a burst of technical creativity, with dozens of new obfuscation and circumvention protocols, proxies and VPNs designed by tech-savvy users -- and by the Telegram team itself -- in order to help bypass governmental censorship.
Drawing from perspectives in science and technology studies (STS), infrastructure studies in particular and relying on a qualitative approach including interviews with Russian technical experts, ISPs, and Internet freedom activists -- this presentation analyzes the Telegram ban in Russia as a socio-technical controversy that unveils the tensions between the governmental narrative of a “sovereign Internet” based on Russian-made censorship and filtering technologies, and the transnational character of global Internet infrastructures.
The original research paper that serves as a material for this seminar was co-authored by Ksenia Ermoshina and Francesca Musiani from the Center for Internet and Society and can be accessed here: https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/11704
Ksenia Ermoshina is a researcher at the Center for Internet and Society of the CNRS, France. She holds a PhD in socio-economy of innovation from the Mines ParisTech High School of Engineering and also works as a UX-designer at Delta Chat messenger. Her research interests touch upon surveillance and censorship studies, social studies of encryption, civic hacking, infrastructure studies, conflict and crisis communications and information control practices in at-risk areas. Besides her main geographical zone of interest (Russia and Eastern Europe), she focuses on international circulation of Internet regulation norms and technologies. She develops a multidisciplinary approach to information control studies, including such innovative methods as network measurements and traffic analysis, combined to web-ethnography and qualitative interviews.