Excellent long story in the NY Times about Russia's crackdown on the internet:
Russia’s boldest moves to censor the internet began in the most mundane of ways — with a series of bureaucratic emails and forms.
The messages, sent by Russia’s powerful internet regulator, demanded technical details — like traffic numbers, equipment specifications and connection speeds — from companies that provide internet and telecommunications services across the country. Then the black boxes arrived.
The telecom companies had no choice but to step aside as government-approved technicians installed the equipment alongside their own computer systems and servers. Sometimes caged behind lock and key, the new gear linked back to a command center in Moscow, giving authorities startling new powers to block, filter and slow down websites that they did not want the Russian public to see.
The process, underway since 2019, represents the start of perhaps the world’s most ambitious digital censorship effort outside of China
Among other things the Russian state has pressured Facebook and YouTube into taking down "illegal" posts and they have threatened to ban those sites altogether. Twitter has not complied with a series of similar requests, so they have radically slowed down the site's traffic, and now everything takes ten times as long to load.
Worried about the power of tech companies and the trouble that can be made online –organizing the January 6 uprising in the US, for example – western countries are saying little:
Russia’s censorship efforts have faced little resistance. In the United States and Europe, once full-throated champions of an open internet, leaders have been largely silent amid deepening distrust of Silicon Valley and attempts to regulate the worst internet abuses themselves. Russian authorities have pointed to the West’s tech industry regulation to justify its own crackdown.
I wonder if in twenty years we will all look back at the free internet era with some combination of nostalgia and relief that it is over.