Belarus News Media Considers Decentralized Tech to Push Back Internet Censorship

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by Bhushan Akolkar · 3 min read
Belarus News Media Considers Decentralized Tech to Push Back Internet Censorship
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Amid the ongoing political unrest and frequent internet shutdown or censorship, the local media outlets in Belarus are using decentralized technology to connect with peers outside. Solutions like NewNode, VPNs, and other proxies have surged in popularity.

The political unrest in Belarus continues to escalate after the latest controversial elections in the European Republic. On Friday, October 2, the Belarus government announced canceling press accreditations for all foreign journalists with immediate effect. This move creates further trouble blocking its citizens from accessing all local media websites. Some media outlets in Belarus have thus decided to go all out and fight back using the power of decentralized tech.

As a result, local media organizations are moving to use a decentralized file-sharing service – NewNode – created by California-based startup Clostra. NewNode works very much similar to torrents allowing users to store small chunks of contents on their devices while simultaneously sharing them with others in a peer-to-peer manner.

NewNode is currently in its early stages of growth. Besides, the company never discloses the number of its global users. However, reports suggest that over 80,000 users from Belarus alone have joined the platform over the last month after elections. Just to give an idea of Clostra’s growth, there were only 10 NewNode users in Belarus before the election. Now the country contributes the largest user base for the platform.

CEO of Clostra Stanislav Shalunov told CoinDesk:

“We grow fastest when we can solve the biggest problems, and the shutdowns in Belarus were very significant.”

Shalunov has previously worked on a number of other technology platforms like BitTorrent and was also the co-founder of rebel communications startup Open Garden.

Clostra’s NewNode and Decentralized Tech to Help Media in Belarus

The concept behind NewNode is that if a user can’t access a website but his/her peer can, they can still connect with each other and exchange available data just like torrent clients. However, if the entire internet of mobile data is shut down, it can’t work. Thus, Belarus can still leverage it since it didn’t have absolute Internet censorship or shutdown. Shalunov explained it saying:

“Devices will connect to one another automatically and build a network and use it to help one another get content using whatever means of Internet access exist. It’s a distributed self-healing network that automatically scales with the number of devices”.

Clostra’s executive director Marina Feygelman told CoinDesk that they penetrated the Belarus market mostly through “word of mouth”. Moreover, they could survive the demand as app stores identified NewNode as a VPN. The VPN popularity has shot to the sky during frequent shutdowns in Belarus allowing users to stay online while bypassing government’s traffic filtering software.

Arkady Pildes, senior product manager at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said: “We’ve been developing our app for people in the countries where the authorities are blocking us”. Radio Liberty recently released its mobile app with built-in NewNode functionality. The Radio Liberty app actually uses NewNode and another popular proxy Psyphon.

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Bhushan Akolkar

Bhushan is a FinTech enthusiast and holds a good flair in understanding financial markets. His interest in economics and finance draw his attention towards the new emerging Blockchain Technology and Cryptocurrency markets. He is continuously in a learning process and keeps himself motivated by sharing his acquired knowledge. In free time he reads thriller fictions novels and sometimes explore his culinary skills.

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