Thanks to its Operation Collateral Freedom mirror site technology, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was able to restore Russian public access to the Radio France Internationale site in the hours following its blocking today at the request of Rozkomnadzor, the Russian media and telecommunications regulator.
Читать на русском / Read in Russian
Radio France Internationale (RFI) broadcasts news and information in 15 languages, including Russian, by radio and on its website. This “Collateral Freedom” operation was made possible thanks to the network of hackers and cybersecurity engineers who help RSF fight against online censorship all over the world. Last month, the same network helped RSF restore access to the websites of Deutsche Wellethe German public broadcaster, and MedouzaRussia’s most popular independent news site, having also been blocked by Moscow.
And on April 5, RSF also created a mirror site for Fortangaan opposition news site based in Ingushetia, in the Russian Caucasus.
“We cannot allow the Kremlin to deprive its citizens of the right to information,said RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire. “The Russian government uses powerful legislative weapons against the fundamental freedoms of its citizens. Russian and foreign media provide an essential service to the Russian public and bringing them back online helps maintain access to freely reported information and quality journalism. We are very happy to be able to help RFI in this way.”
The Kremlin seeks to suppress all reliable and freely reported information that can compete with its propaganda. And, as part of its quest for total control over information, it blocks access to online media – a process that Operation Collateral Freedom is able to reverse.
Marie-Christine Saragosse, CEO of France Médias Monde (the public company that owns RFI), mentioned: “We deplore the cut, in Russia, of access to the RFI site, in Russian as in all the other RFI languages, which further deprives Russian civil society of the possibility of freely obtaining information based on verified facts. In this context, we will maintain the provision of news and information by mobilizing all technical solutions to keep our content accessible to the Russian population. This partnership around Collateral Freedom is part of the long history that our media shares with RSF in defending freedom of information.”
RSF’s Operation Collateral Freedom is able to quickly restore access to a blocked website by creating an exact or “mirror” copy of the site and placing it on a Content Delivery Network (CDN) that hosts many other services. Authoritarian governments cannot block access to the CDN without suffering the collateral damage of blocking their own access to all other services provided by the CDN. The only option is to target the URL again, but RSF can give the mirror a new URL faster than the government can block it.
The Russian Internet is too complex for the government to control effectively. Blocking a site takes time and money. RSF is not subject to any of these constraints and will not abandon its defense of press freedom against predators.
Russia is ranked 150th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index