What just happened? Cogent, a tier 1 ISP serving customers and businesses worldwide, informed Russian-based customers that all services would be terminated effective March 4. The company initially said the decision was made following Russia's actions in Ukraine. A later statement by a Cogent representative clarified the decision, citing the ISP's need to comply with recent EU regulations.
Originally reported by the Washington Post, the move is meant to inhibit Russia's ability to spread propaganda and conduct cyberattacks against Ukraine and its allies. Cogent claims the termination is being pursued to maintain compliance with the recently passed EU regulation 2022/350.
The regulation, originally passed on March 1, prevents operators from facilitating and broadcasting content by specific entities cited in the regulation's annex. The legal persons, entities, and bodies referred to in article 2F of the regulation include Russia Today broadcasts to several countries as well Sputnik, one of Russia's state-sponsored global news organizations.
Rather than simply flipping the switch, the company has agreed to conduct gradual terminations in order to give requesting companies time to secure new service providers. The move places Cogent on the list with several other large companies that are steadily reducing and eliminating their connections to Russian-based businesses.
Other businesses that have taken steps to reduce or eliminate their Russian ties range from financial companies such as Visa and Mastercard to social media and streaming platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
Not everyone views the overall decision to sever the company's ties to Russian customers as beneficial, with many fearing the decision will leave truth-seeking Russians at the mercy of state-sponsored media and propaganda campaigns. Wikimedia's VP of Global Advocacy, Rebecca MacKinnon, explained on Twitter how the move would not stop government-backed organizations from launching cyberattacks or spreading disinformation. The Internet Frontier Foundation's Director of Cybersecurity, Eva Galperin, also voiced her opposition to Cogent's move.
WTF Cogent? Cutting Russians off from internet access cuts them from off from sources of independent news and the ability to organize anti-war protests. Don't do Putin's dirty work for him. https://t.co/uqbgOFYWX9--- Eva (@evacide) March 4, 2022
Cogent CEO Dave Schaeffer told the Washington Post, "Our goal is not to hurt anyone. It's just to not empower the Russian government to have another tool in their war chest."
Image credit: network equipment by Lars Kienle