The War in Ukraine is also a war “of” and “by” digital technology.

Faced with the blocking of numerous websites and control of social media orchestrated by the Kremlin, Ukrainians and Russian anti-war activists are resisting through decentralised messaging services and distribution lists. An overview by Francesca Musiani, a member of the ResisTIC project on digital resistance, which held a conference on 31 March and 1 April in Aubervilliers, near Paris.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on 24 February, is also a war “of” and “by” digital technology. It has had a considerable impact on the cyberspace of both countries, due to drastic modifications to Internet regulations in Russia, as well as international sanctions which, among other things, prompted many digital companies to leave the country. In Ukraine, physical infrastructure has of course been severely damaged by military operations. Massive cyberattacks against government services on both sides were initiated by citizens, hackers, and state agents, while disinformation campaigns led by the Kremlin have flooded Russian social media.

While the war in Ukraine has shined a spotlight on these various developments, it should be noted that they are longstanding dynamics that the ResisTIC project has been analysing over the past four years. Since the 2010s the Russian authorities have been actively pursuing a strategy of digital sovereignty, in an effort to make the RuNet autonomous through new laws countering foreign influence. Another example of this policy is the Sovereign Internet Law passed in 2019 to protect the country from cyberattacks, or the “anti-Apple” law enforced in 2020 with a view to pre-downloading a host of Russian-produced applications on smartphones sold in Russia.

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