Russians are still accessing Deutsche Welle (DW) despite the broadcaster having has its websites in all languages blocked in the country on March 4.
This, according to DW, is “thanks to more than 10 years’ experience gathered by DW in circumventing censorship by authoritarian regimes”.
DW says that when compared to the five months prior to the war in Ukraine, its Russian page has seen a 120% increase in total traffic and even a 24% increase in traffic from Russia.
It adds that this trend is also visible in the DW Russian social media offerings. The service’s Facebook page, for instance, has also been blocked since March 4 and is seeing a spike in traffic of 370% when compared to the 5-month pre-war period. The Facebook page has also seen an increase in followers from across the globe, another clear indication of the interest of a global audience for DW offerings.
According to Guido Baumhauer, DW MD of distribution, marketing and technology, “these numbers are proof positive that our measures for circumventing censorship and our distribution strategy are working,” says. “Ever since our Moscow bureau was closed on February 4, it has become increasingly difficult to reach our audience in Russia. Therefore, we are glad to see that the citizens of Russia are even more driven to find independent information now, during this illegal war of aggression, than they were even in the months before the invasion of Ukraine”
DW, with its 32 language services, says it is no stranger to censorship as its pages have been blocked in other countries such as China and Iran for more than 10 years. Since 2012, it has enabled its users to bypass internet censorship with tools such as Psiphon, which offers open source apps and proxies for circumvention. DW has also had an Onion site in the Tor network since 2019, which allows users to surf websites in the network anonymously. The best way to reach DW content, though, remains the DW App, which enables censorship circumvention with just one click. Users also have the option of accessing DW and other online offerings using various VPNs.
Oliver Linow, DW internet freedom specialist, added: “Our years of experience benefited us in circumventing censorship in Russia as well as in Belarus, for example, where we were censored already in late October 2021 and were able to quickly ensure access to our website in the country,” says. “Following the loss of our license in Russia and the subsequent closing of our Moscow bureau, we were prepared for the complete censorship of our content there, as well. We immediately activated mirrored websites via so-called proxy servers so the people in Russia can continue accessing our Russian-language content. And it’s working”.