It will soon be a lot harder for Internet users in Russia to access anything outside of government-sanctioned or region-locked sites and services. Vladimir Putin has just signed into law a bill that makes it illegal to use Internet proxy services, including VPNs or virtual private networks. While the law is primarily aimed at curbing anti-government activities, it also puts other legitimate or excusable uses of proxies at terrible risk.
Like any censorship laws, this new anti-proxy law was written for the sake of preserving peace and order in the country. Or at least that’s how the Russian government is trying to sell it. Critics and activists, of course, see it as a way for Putin, who is likely to seek reelection next year, to gag any form of political protest or dissent.
According to the new law, which takes effect November 1 this year, Internet service providers are required to block access to proxies and VPNs, as they are often used my extremists to spread content and ideas. It can also be blamed for allowing Russians to have an idea of the other forms of government outside of their country.
Unfortunately, proxies and VPNs also have politically agnostic uses, like accessing web pages and services that are region locked but not for political reasons. Of course, that might constitute a breach in the terms of service of some of those sources anyway.
Putin also signed a new law that will require instant messaging services to have users be identified by their phone numbers and to restrict access if authorities believe that the user is engaged in spreading illegal content. This law will take effect on 1st January, 2018.
SOURCE: Radio Free Europe