The figure comes from a new report looking into government censorship of the internet and social media outlets, revealing that Russia leads the costs by more than double that of the next biggest censor, Kazakhstan.
The near $861 million that Russia has incurred in costs since January 2022 marks a stark contract to the economic impact of its censorship efforts in previous years.
In 2021, before Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered troops across the border into Ukraine for what he dubbed a 'special military operation', the cost of censorship in Russia only amounted to $1 million, according to independent research firm Top10VPN.com. The year before, Russia didn't even make it on to the list.
In a post on Twitter discussing the findings, the firm noted the country has effectively been 'sanctioning itself with these restrictions' to its internet.
The cost of the censorship is determined by both the direct and indirect impacts of the restrictions on a country's economy, NetBlocks, the watchdog group that calculates the damages, told Insider. The figure represents how much a country's population could lose from internet blackouts and social media restrictions, whether in the form of lost work productivity, investment potential and opportunity costs, both directly to the digital sector and to digital-dependent sectors.
In the wake of the ongoing invasion, Russia restricted access to social media sites including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, as well as outlets such as Voice of America, the BBC, Bloomberg, CNN, Deutsche Welle, and major Ukrainian outlets. TV Rain, the last independent media outlet without a connection to the Kremlin, was pulled from the air in Russia earlier this month.
"This kind of deliberate disruption is internet censorship in its most extreme form," the researchers said. "Not only do these internet outages infringe on citizens' digital rights but they are also acts of economic self-harm."
The demand for virtual private network (VPN) services has risen dramatically in both Russia and Ukraine as residents look to find ways around the restrictions, with VPNs offering a way to protect a user's identity and browsing activity from anyone who may be looking into internet use.
Though Russia's censorship proved to be the most costly, experts have noted it still does not compare to the restrictions put in place by China. However, China has not suffered an economic loss as a result because apps were either never available to begin with, or because the country is able to censor its own apps without shutting them down.
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BY : EMILY BROWN