Updated at 20:27,19-11-2020

Belarus may ban Skype, Viber and other messengers

Vital Ruhain, Euroradio

On March 15, the National Legal Internet Portal posted the news that Belarus created a system to counter violations of traffic transmission in the telecommunications networks. The news itself raises many questions, since it only quotes some excerpts from Decree No 98.

Some people in Belarus are wondering what it means. Some have come to the conclusion that something is now forbidden, possibly Skype, Viber, anonymizers and VPN.

But the IT-specialist Aliaksei Charnyayeu writes that he has not found any bans of messengers and anonymizers in the decree. However, it is obvious that there is a ban on spoofing phone numbers, if the number you are using to call is not registered on you. This, for example, occurs when a call from Skype or Viber is made to a regular mobile number.

The text of the decree, which may shed some light, only appeared at night. But it gave even more questions. Experts and lawyers cannot explain anything exactly and therefore abstain from making any comments. There are various options discussed as to what this decree could eventually ban.

Only the Operative and Analytical Center can explain the document. But they do not comment on anything. "File a request, we will respond within 10 days," said the OAC. The request has been filed, but the answer, it seems, will come only in the mentioned 10 days.

Will Skype, Viber and other messengers get banned?

We can say for sure that the use of these programs will not be banned. Also the decree has nothing about VPNs or anonymizers, because here we are talking only about the connection of one subscriber to another.

We can say for sure that the decree aims to combat the so-called "illegal" termination. This is the opinion of one of the experts of Belarusian providers. Termination happens when the call to Belarus, for example, from Poland or the United States, comes through the Internet, where it is received by the GSM-gate, which has Belarusian sim-cards and the call goes to the Belarusian mobile number.

Ukraine is currently facing this problem, with mobile operators there losing a lot of money on overseas calls.

In theory, the ban may cover calls from messengers to landlines and mobile phones in Belarus, as well as calls from Belarus through messengers to overseas numbers (in this case Skype-to-Skype is possible).

Also, the decree may prohibit the provision of SIP-services (this is cheap calls over the Internet to mobile and landline phones abroad, video and audio conferences).

The ban may affect SMSs sent from websites, because there you do not use the number registered on you. The same situation happens with the CLIR. But since the operator knows your real number, it may not fall under the decree.

Another interesting point of the decree: the operators will be forced to identify on a regular basis violations in their networks, "including using the tools and systems based on the principles of analyzing the behavior of the subscriber, a complete analysis of network packet system."

This technology is called Deep Packet Inspection, which allows you to keep track of all packages and to identify and block, for example, BitTorrent, Skype, VoIP, SIP-telephony.

But this is all speculation, and no one is in a hurry to comment on the decree. Everyone is waiting for an official explanation. Why not issue an explanation with a decree written in the Aesopian language? Then there would be no speculation and panic. Moreover, the decree was issued "in order to implement the rights of citizens to be protected from unlawful interference in private life."