Thursday, April 19, 2018

Russian streamers claim Twitch is now being blocked

Russia's communications regulator has locked out a large swath of Amazon and Google IPs, and Twitch seems to be caught in the crossfire.

Image source: Angry Roleplayer
Telegram is a popular messaging service in Russia that was recently ordered to provide access to users' encrypted messages to the state security services. It refused, to its credit, leading Russia's communications regulator Roskomnadzor to block a large number of IP addresses belonging to Google and Amazon. And that dispute has resulted in some major headaches for Russian streamers on Twitch.
"Yesterday Russian authorities started blocking Telegram (popular encrypted messenger) and Amazon (and Google) server ip's country-wide. As a result over 20 MILLION ip's and ip gates were banned which resulted in massive nation-wide blocking and collapse of many services that used amazon and some google-based servers," streamer Angry Roleplayer wrote on Reddit (via Polygon). "Unfortunately twitch is also BLOCKED NOW for most Russians including me!"
Angry Roleplayer said in a followup comment that the actual number of blocked IPs differs between sources—Reuters, for instance, describes it as "18 sub-networks and a significant number of IP addresses." But it appears widespread, and comes after an initial attempt to block Telegram directly failed.
"Telegram has an inbuilt technology enabling a dynamic change of IP addresses using smartphone functions. Telegram can be changing IP addresses countless times. I do not quite understand how Roskomnadzor can fully block it," Telegram investor Sergei Solonin told Kommersant (via Interfax). "Strange they did not realize that before. The entire thing was known from the beginning."
Solonin said that it is possible to block Telegram through Apple and Google, although he described the idea as "absurd." He also suggested that "commercial" motivation might be the real driving force behind the attempted Telegram block, although Roskomnadzor chief Alexander Zharov denied any such motivations.

The block doesn't appear to be entirely across the board, as some Russian streamers said that they can still access Twitch. Redditor Siberian_644, for one, said the service was still working in Omsk, but added that it wasn't working for his friends and "guys from the Russian Street Fighter community." YouTube, which is owned by Google, is also apparently exempt; Angry Roleplayer said he'd switch to its service "for the time being." Some users suggested that VPNs could be used to get around the block, but results appear to be mixed, and there are also questions about their legality in Russia.
It's unknown how long the block will remain in place, or how much further it might ultimately reach. Zharov said he hoped to receive "legally meaningful" responses about the matter from Amazon and Google by today, while Telegram CEO Pavel Durov thanked them "for not taking part in political censorship," and also said he would award millions of dollars in Bitcoin grants to people and companies who run proxies and VPNs.
Even though Twitch appears to be collateral damage in this dispute, the outage is going to be a big headache for Russian streamers who rely on it for income. I've reached out to Twitch for more information and will update if I receive a reply.

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