NEWS

Russia censors VPN & Tor advice site

BestVPN prides itself on giving lots of good practical advice on avoiding censorship and government surveillance around the world. The fact that our website is banned in China is a badge we wear with pride.

News out of Russia suggests that we may soon be banned there too. A local court in Russia has declared the website RUBlacklist illegal, and ordered ISP’s to block access to it. The Anapa Court ruling determined that,

Due to anonymizer sites, in particular http://rublacklist.net/bypass, users can have full access to all the banned sites anonymously and via spoofing. That is, with the help of this site, citizens can get unlimited anonymous access to banned content, including extremist material.

RUBlackilist is a Russian language information resource website that offers its readers advice on avoiding government censorship. Subjects covered on the website include VPN advice, the Tor Anonymity Network, circumventing censorship using the opera browser’s ‘Turbo’ mode, TPB’s ‘Pirate Browser’, and the I2P darkweb.

The RUBlacklist website is operated by the RosComSvoboda project, an organization that monitors Russian government surveillance, promotes human rights and internet freedom, and publishes lists of blocked websites. Top RosKomSvoboda member Artyom Kozlyukhit hit back savagely at the ruling, describing it as ‘absurd’,

‘Law enforcement has demonstrated its complete incompetence in the basic knowledge of all the common technical aspects of the Internet, though even youngsters can understand it. Anonymizers, proxies and browsers are multitask instruments, helping to search for information on the Internet. If we follow the reasoning of the prosecutor and the court, then the following stuff should be prohibited as well: knives, as they can become a tool for murder; hammers, as they can be used as a tool of torture; planes, because if they fall they can lead to many deaths. To conclude, I would love to ask the prosecutor of Anapa to consider the possibility of prohibiting paper and ink, because with these tools one can draw a very melancholic picture of this ruling’s complete ignorance.

RosKomSvoboda plans to appeal the decision, with its lawyer Sarkis Darbinian arguing that,

Law enforcement has demonstrated its complete incompetence in the basic knowledge of all the common technical aspects of the Internet, though even youngsters can understand it. Anonymizers, proxies and browsers are multitask instruments, helping to search for information on the Internet. If we follow the reasoning of the prosecutor and the court, then the following stuff should be prohibited as well: knives, as they can become a tool for murder; hammers, as they can be used as a tool of torture; planes, because if they fall they can lead to many deaths. To conclude, I would love to ask the prosecutor of Anapa to consider the possibility of prohibiting paper and ink, because with these tools one can draw a very melancholic picture of this ruling’s complete ignorance.’

This seems to us, however, a rather naive statement. In a country where some 25 percent (Google translate) of Russian internet users hide their online activity using some form of VPN, and a further 150,000 citizens regularly use Tor, the Russian authorities have made it clear that they do understand the technology behind such anonymization tools, and that this only makes them want to ban such technologies more…


Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

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