Russia’s Roskomnadzor orders VPNs to censor “banned” sites

Posted on Mar 28, 2019 by Caleb Chen
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The Roskomnadzor, Russia’s government censorship agency, has issued formal notices to ten non-Russian VPN providers demanding that they “hook up” to the Roskomnadzor’s list of banned sites and start complying with said blocks within 30 business days. Vadim Ampelonsky, the Roskamnadzor’s press secretary, told Interfax that if the targeted VPN companies do not comply, they might see access to their services limited by Russia.

This threat is not new – but may have more teeth this time around. Since 2017, the Roskomnadzor has threatened that they might add VPNs to their block list if they failed to comply to the censorship requests. Now that these formal censorship requests (example) from the Roskomnadzor have been sent out, we’ll finally be able to see how this will be implemented.

Russia continues to double down on internet censorship

In 2016, the controversial Yaroyava laws – which Edward Snowden referred to as Russia’s Big Brother Laws” were passed. These mandated that Russian datacenters log all internet traffic and store that data. Since then, internet censorship in Russia has only gotten worse – prompting protests in Moscow. Just this past month, Putin signed additional laws targeting fake news and disparagement of government symbols.

How will the Roskamadzor enact this censorship?

It’s still unclear what will happen to VPN providers that do not comply with Russia’s censorship demands. In 2016, Private Internet Access lead VPN providers by removing their servers from Russia while still allowing Russian users to connect to their non Russian servers. In 2017, the Roskamadzor first threatened to ban VPNs and proxies that don’t censor whatever the government wants. Back in 2018, Karen Ghazaryan, an analyst from the Russian Electronic Communications Association (RAEC), affirmed to the RBC that the Rozkomnadzor might not even have the technical and legal ability to ban VPN

“Roskomnadzor does not have leverage over most VPN services, and they can not block them for failing to comply with the law, because Roskomnadzor does not have ready technical solutions for this, and the law does not yet have relevant by-laws.”

However, with this set of notices, the Russian government seems to have clarified that they’d get the legal authority to block non compliant VPN providers using paragraph 5 of Article 15.8 of the Federal Law No. 149-FZ of 27.07.2006 “On Information, Information Technology and on Protection of Information.”

While Vedomosti has reported since 2018 that some Russia based VPN providers have acquiesced and started participating in the Roskomnadzor’s blocklist, the specifics of when Russia will try to crack down on external VPN providers in Russia is only now coming to light. At the end of the day, while these laws can clearly be used to add any website to the censored-by-Roskamnadzor blocklist, they still do not forbid personal VPN use by Russian netizens.

Editor’s Note: Private Internet Access has not operated servers in Russia since 2016. in anticipation of such shenanigans. If the Roskomnadzor asks Private Internet Access to block sites, we will not comply.

About Caleb Chen

Caleb Chen is a digital currency and privacy advocate who believes we must #KeepOurNetFree, preferably through decentralization. Caleb holds a Master's in Digital Currency from the University of Nicosia as well as a Bachelor's from the University of Virginia. He feels that the world is moving towards a better tomorrow, bit by bit by Bitcoin.

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5 Comments

  1. Red

    PIA did the right thing when have had to get out of Russia by 2016!!! So, wait… Are the government of Russia want a VPN provider to censor the entire world, all users, seriously!? I think, that’s insane, guys. No VPN will do it because the sole purpose of a VPN is to circumvent Censorship. It is as insane as to expect a runner to don’t run or a plane to don’t fly, a car to don’t fly, etc. Any who does censor people will loose customers. That’s a few days before the gov’t will test it’s Shutdown Capabilities, the 1st April is the test, their sense of “humour” is a bit bizarre for me. The gov’t does no good: The Internet is a Human Right as the UN declared by like 2013 but Russia violates Human Rights again, only PIA protects Russian rights for Freedom there. By 2020 the country could be the next North Korea with an Intranet instead of the Internet because the gov’t is afraid of the truth around. You would have Orwell’s 1984 but with the Internet instead of books, everything will be rewritten and no history except the Party and Big Brother, a “frozen” world where even the time is broken, where War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Straight. But isn’t it now for Russia? Let me see, I am a Russian, thanks to a VPN that I have no fear to tell the case. Russia does wars but calls it “Peace.” There is an entire generation of Russians like miself who never saw what Peace is because the country is always at war these days. This freaking “Sovereign Democracy” is just a “newspeak” word for “Censored Uncensored” or “Enslaved Freedom” where you have “Democracy” that is owned by the gov’t, it is as “Democracy” as “the Democratic Republic of Congo” or “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” who are not Democratic and have more to do with Totalitarianism than with the right thing, they are not Democratic. In my opinion the propose of this horrible 2014 flood of Hate Speech was to make people piss off about politics and think that their Ignotance is Straight, so far, the government succeeded, not a few Russians prefer to ignore politics and think it makes them more powerful and they are “fooling” it, that’s not, to be honest. So, aren’t Russia is pretty close to Orwell? Maybe, so far as those 3. You have years of hate istead of 2 Minutes of Hate, many other things are alike. I am paying my attention to the Singularity of 2050 and an Ultimate AI, to Augmented Reality (Microsoft Hololens 2, Magic Leap), Driverless Cars, Deep Fake, Face Recognition, CRISPR-Cas9 and other things because we weren’t that close to making Orwell’s 1984 a reality as it is now, it won’t be the same but I expect to have some kind of Dystopia. I am sure if those tools are used wrongly it will be a nightmare, if you’re a Russian, I strongly suggest to leave the country or it could be too late, just look at China, it has Skynet like from Terminator, an AI who is always watching you, Russia would be the same or worse with its Big Brother. On the other hand, the Battle isn’t ended, there is a hope. I want to thank you, PIA, that you do the right thing and provide people the Internet as it should be: Free. Continue to fight the Evil!!! Let’s hope that VPNs will continue to win the Battle… If Russia didn’t learn the lesson, it will repeat its past, again and again, Censorship doesn’t work, the Iron Curtain is a bad idea, so goes the Web Curtain, it will be a failure. At the end of the day, the Hero always wins, the Evil will fail, as always.

    9 months ago
    1. Red

      Oh, my fault. I meant “a car to don’t drive.” Sorry.

      9 months ago
  2. Makedonec Lavovski

    Also the citizens of the Russian Federation can use the Linux Kodachi OS to stop the Russian Federation Government censorship.

    9 months ago
  3. Not important

    It’s “Yarovaya” not “Yarayova”

    9 months ago
    1. Caleb Chen

      Thanks! Fixed.

      9 months ago