Russia blocks websites on a very large-scale but citizens often circumvent those blocks using VPNs, TOR and other anonymizing tools. The country is now looking at ways of bringing this to an end, with Russia’s main web-blocking body supporting a worrying proposal by a Russian MP to ban use of these tools.
Levin’s proposals to block anonymizing tools and networks is not new. In 2012 the topic was raised but came to nothing and in 2013 an initiative was launched by the FSB and received support from the State Duma. However, there is a growing feeling that Russia will eventually do something.
According to figures cited by Russia’s RBC, 150,000 citizens use the TOR network with up to 25% of Internet users now using some kind of VPN.
Read more on TorrentFreak.
Commenting on the news, Glyn Moody writes on TechDirt:
What’s troubling about this latest call for even tighter control is that it was entirely predictable. Once governments start blocking sites and restricting freedom of speech online, people inevitably respond by using VPNs and Tor to circumvent these measures. And that means that if governments want their laws to be effective, at some point they will take direct action against circumvention tools. That’s why it’s particularly worrying that Western governments have started down this road: it implies that they, too, might one day try to ban VPNs and Tor.