Russia has blocked access to six popular VPN services. The Russian Federal agency for the supervision of communications asserts that it’s a move to hinder online criminal activity. Others allege that the goal is to clamp down on media in the run-up to the oncoming parliamentary elections.
The Russian government has, in the past, restricted the use of VPNs to services that comply with its censorship laws. However, a few top VPNs that are accessible in the country have dodged these laws.
Now, the country has blocked these VPNs. The Russian Agency that supervises communication, Roskomnadzor, is in charge of carrying out the move.
The Roskomnadzor has justified the move in response to criticism. Specifically, the agency points out that criminals use VPNs to access illegal pornographic material and conceal the purchasing of drugs online.
Bloomberg points out that this move comes in the run-up to parliamentary elections.
Moreover, it’s part of Russia’s campaign to curtail the influence of tech and solidify its grasp on media. Big tech companies such as Google and Facebook have been penalized for not following Russia’s content laws previously.
While it’s true that VPNs can be used for illicit activities, they are also often used for protection by journalists or activists.
Russia isn’t the only country coming down on VPNs either. Just recently an Indian parliamentary committee began pushing for a ban.
The blocking of these VPNs is a big move, but VPNs often find ways to get around such things. It’s part of their design.
It remains to be seen how this block will impact VPN usage in the country for the average user.