The Russian government is preparing to scale-up its war on people accessing blocked webssites by hitting services that provide workarounds. A new bill
developed by the government requires VPNs and other anonymizing services to stop providing access to blocked domains. If they do not, they themselves will also be blocked. Search engines also face sanctions for linking to banned sites.
When it comes to blocking websites, Russia is quickly emerging as a world leader. Tens of thousands of sites are now blocked in the country on copyright infringement and a wide range of other censorship grounds.
Of course, Russian citizens are not always prepared to be constrained by their government, so large numbers of people regularly find ways to circumvent ISP blockades. The tools and methods deployed are largely the same as those used in the West,
including VPNs, proxies, mirror sites and dedicated services such as Tor.
To counter this defiance, the Russian government has been considering legislation to tackle sites, tools and services that provide Internet users with ways to circumvent blockades. According to local news outlet Vedomosti , that has now resulted in a
tough new bill.
Russia's plan is to issue a nationwide ban on systems and software that allow Internet users to bypass website blockades previously approved by telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor. This means that if a VPN, proxy or similar tool unblocks torrent site
RuTracker, for example, it will be breaking the law. As a result, it too will find itself on Russia's banned site list.
The publication says it has confirmed the bill's existence with a federal official and several Internet service provider sources.
As previously reported , Russia also has search engines in its sights. It wants to prevent links to banned sites appearing in search results, claiming that these encourage people to access banned material. The new bill reportedly lays out a new framework
which will force search engines to remove such links. Failing to do so could result in fines of up to $12,400 per breach, clearly a significant issue for companies such as Google and local search giant Yandex.