Internet Freedom in Russia

A recent poll reveals some interesting things about the Internet in Russia. More than half of all Russians are now using the Internet on a weekly basis. That might not sound like a big deal, but stop and consider that in 2006 fewer than 10% of Russians surfed the Web with any type of frequency. The rapid spread of Internet access in Russia and tight government regulations of Internet content are strong arguments for using a VPN, whether you live in the country or are just visiting.

History of Russia

Russia is officially known as the Russian Federation and is a rather large Eurasian semi-presidential republic. The history of Russia is a complex one, with the country having undergone numerous political changes throughout various regimes. Once the face of Communism, Russia has emerged in the post-Cold War era as a nation which has made strides toward democracy.

On a recent note, Russia has been in the news for offering political asylum to NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden. Snowden revealed the ways in which the NSA collects data on American Citizens. This measure could have implications on the relationship between the US and Russia which has always remained strained despite increased cooperation between the two nations.

Internet in Russia

There are a variety of methods for Internet access in Russia, including dial-up, DSL, cable, wireless, and satellite. The Internet in Russia is sometimes referred to as Runet by the government, a term given to the Russian-speaking web community. Russian is now the second most-used language on the Web.

As we stated previously, the presence of Internet in the homes of Russian citizens has exploded in the past few years, and it is projected that this growth will continue. In addition to the many homes with Internet access, those visiting Russia will find plenty of hotspots and public WiFi access points.

Internet filtering in Russia

We mentioned Edward Snowden earlier for a reason. As recently as July 10, 2013, the Russian government announced that it would seek measures that would tighten the state’s Internet controls. This is concerning because it perhaps reflects Russia’s move toward a more anti-democratic political climate. In that type of climate, Internet freedom in Russia is at serious risk.

Most of the Internet censorship in Russia to this point has involved news outlets and blogs which are critical of the government. These sites can be censored or taken down at will. Recently, however, several Russian politicians have called for the country to restrict the use of social networks like Facebook. Dimitri Rogozin, Deputy Prime Minister, said that these networks are waging “cyber wars” against Russia.

In 2012, the Russian government issued a blacklist of prohibited sites which were blocked in Russia. These sites include, but are not limited to:

  • Pornographic websites. Some of these are blocked and some are not, depending on the type of content provided.
  • Drug use websites. Any websites which promote the use of drugs such as marijuana or sell drug-related merchandise (bongs, pipes, etc.) are blocked.
  • Any site with information prohibited for distribution by the government. This is the tricky one, and it allows the government a lot of latitude in blocking websites.

Unblocking Websites in Russia

Using a VPN account  while traveling in Russia can restore access to many of the websites which are currently blocked by the State. In addition, all media services such as Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer not available outside of the US and the UK can be unblocked by using a VPN.

With the recent announcement of increased Internet restriction in Russia, anyone planning to travel or work in the country needs to seriously consider setting up their own VPN account in order to avoid any inconvenience which may arise from Russian Internet censorship.

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