Russia is a vast country that has experienced dramatic events throughout history, but its rich culture continues fascinating people across the world. The country has played an important role in global politics and although some of its actions are questioned by the international opinion, Russia’s status as one of the most powerful nations in the planet, remains undisputed. However, the concern regarding the limitations that freedom of expression faces in Russia has increased, following the introduction of a set of laws that are designed to give the government a higher level of control over internet. In the past couple of years, internet freedom in Russia has been curtailed and the latest regulations are only part of a trend that started since Vladimir Putin retook the presidency.
The Russian head of government has gone as far as referring to Internet is a threat for the country’s values and he even offered 3.9 million Rubles (around 90,000 USD) as a reward for anyone that could crack the Tor network. The recent laws require bloggers with over 3000 daily readers to register with the government, making anyone who wants to exercise the right to share their opinion, an easy target for the severe surveillance imposed by the Kremlin. Online censorship in Russia is also supported by a blacklist of URLs, domain names and IPs that is managed by the Federal Service for Supervision Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media or Roskomnadzor.
While the blacklist was initially intended to block websites that are related to illegal drugs, child exploitation or that advocate suicide, it later extended to any content that was deemed to be against Russian government policies. This would include opposition websites, posts denouncing corruption of members of the government and articles about LGBT rights. The system allows users to check if a URL or IP address is blacklisted and they can also report websites that may contain prohibited material.
Roskomnadzor will review the submissions and request the website owner/ hosting provider to remove the violating content. If the website is not in compliance within three days or if it has not been taken down by the hosting company, it will be added to the blacklist and all Russian ISPs are required to block it. This selective blocking also impacted news and political websites that reported about the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and the Crimean crisis. The blacklist has been criticized by internet freedom activists and international media that see it as a tool to enable censorship of independent news and opposition websites. The system represents a danger for freedom of expression and limits the access to information for users in Russia.
Internet users are also subject to intrusive regulations that put their privacy at risk. In July 2014, a data retention law was passed as part of an existing anti-terrorism legislation. The law requires all websites operating in Russia to store data of users on servers located in the country. The law will give the government easy access to private information and any website that does not comply by September 2016 could be blocked. The regulation applies to a wide variety of websites and services including Facebook. Furthermore, since August free Wi-Fi hotspots operators are required to collect personal details of all users and to ask for their passports.
There is no doubt that the situation in Russia is alarming for anyone that values their privacy and that wishes to access information online without restrictions. The best option to evade censorship and to protect your anonymity online is to use a VPN and other privacy guidelines to protect your online activity. The below services are ideal for users in Russia that want to reclaim their right to use internet freely.
Best VPNs for Russia
IPVanish (Read Review or Visit Site)
One of the most reliable and strongest services thanks to the fact that they operate their own network of servers. IPVanish is recognized for offering great level of security for your privacy, while ensuring that you can bypass censorship to enjoy access to any website.
PureVPN (Read Review or Visit site)
PureVPN offers great features that help you to protect your information online and to get the most out of your internet browsing experience. The Hong-Kong based company is committed to offering a fast, secure and versatile service that allows you to watch videos, access news websites and much more.
VyprVPN (Read Review or Visit Site)
The reason why VyprVPN is consistently listed as an effective solution for users that want to enjoy complete freedom online is that this company offers high technology and great security. Their powerful Chameleon feature allows you to bypass firewalls and ISP blocks without any hassle. They also offer strong encryption for your data.
ibVPN (Read Review or Visit site)
With a good selection of servers and affordability, ibVPN stands out as a solid option for users that want to access online content without any restrictions. When you choose ibVPN you can expect protection for your privacy as the company does not keep logs and is committed to keep you safe from eavesdropping.
IronSocket (Read Review or Visit Site)
Thanks to useful features like DNS proxy and a wide selection of servers across the world, IronSocket has become a great option for many users. The service offers satisfactory speed and performance to enable you to surf internet freely and to enjoy streaming services, while protecting your data.