Russia May Become the First Country to Blanket Ban All Proxy and VPN Services

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Jul 26, 2017
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Following in China’s footsteps and going a step further, Russia has decided to crack down on VPN and proxy services. Despite public outcry and protests in Moscow, two legislative bodies have passed the bill that requires ISPs to block proxy services. The bill is now at the desk of President Putin, who is expected to sign it into law.

According to CrimeRussia, instead of Roskomnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media), the Russian intelligence agency, FSB, will now be responsible for the task of implementing this law.

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“After identifying the illegal sites and domains, the watchdog will send a notice to the individual service providers […] the service providers will get a 72-hour deadline in order to give up the details of the various operators.”

Many netizens in Russia regularly use proxy and VPN services along with anonymizing tools like TOR to access content that is restricted in the country. Political commentary against the government is a predominant reason that several sites get blocked in the country. Folks at CR report that their site was also banned in Russia in 2016 when it published information about corrupt government officials.

Putin to sign the bill into law

The Russian Parliament, Duma, approved the proposed bill last week followed by the Russian Federation Council approving it yesterday. Once the bill turns into law after President Putin signs it, ISPs will be forced to block access to any and all proxy and VPN services that enable Russian internet users to access banned content. According to some reports, over 7 million sources of content are blocked in the country pushing users to regularly use these services.

The Russian government argues that the decision will help it limit the spread of terrorism-related extremist content. However, many believe that it is nothing but another step to censor and limit political dissent online. Where exactly do the sites like LinkedIn and Wikipedia, that have previously been blocked in the country, fall in these two categories is unclear.

Several countries have previously blocked “some” proxy and VPN services temporarily, including Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China, and others. China does demand VPN services to register with the government that are then required to implement the same bans anyway. Russia, however, will probably be the first to implement a blanket ban on proxies taking a legislative step against these services.

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If signed by Putin, the law would take effect next year on January 1.

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