Russia tried to get the creators of the private messaging service Telegram to create a back-door so its cops could spy on Telegram users; Telegram refused and Russia banned Telegram in retaliation.
But banning Telegram is easier said than done. The Android and Apple app stores still carry it, and are so far refusing to remove it. What's more, Telegram shifted its service to the Google and Amazon clouds, forcing Russia to block all of Google and all of Amazon — and all the services that use them — and still, users are able to get around the block.
Russia can go on blocking ever-larger swathes of the internet as Telegram uses a wider range of services to carry its traffic. Eventually, Russia will have cut off its entire domestic internet from critical online infrastructure that its own industry and services are reliant upon.
That's because the tech industry (like most industries) has experienced drastic concentration. A service that can use one of the big clouds can use that cloud's millions of other customers as hostages, daring a government that wants to block it to block all of them, too.
But the flipside of this is that there aren't all that many ports of call for Telegram. If Apple or Google cave and block the Telegram app, it will seriously undermine Russians' ability to avail themselves of it. At least Android users can opt to use a third-party app store with a single box-tick; Apple has made the process technically very challenging, and uses the law to shut down anyone who tries to make it easier.
Meanwhile, if Google or Amazon boot Telegram off their cloud, it can move to Microsoft or Cloudflare, but after a few rounds of this kind of whac-a-mole, Telegram will run out of major cloud providers.
It's a pretty perfect parable about the risks and benefits of all this concentration.
Telegram tried to mitigate the ban by moving some of its essential infrastructure to third-party cloud services. But Russian telecom regulator Roskomnadzor responded by blocking upwards of 16 million IP addresses, many belonging to Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. Not too surprisingly, the heavy-handed maneuver resulted in connectivity problems across massive swaths of the Russian internet:
In Trying To Ban Telegram, Russia Breaks The Internet [Karl Bode/Techdirt]