New Russian Law Mirrors China in Restricting Use of VPNs

Aug. 9, 2017  |  By Holly Dragoo

Russia now has joined China in implementing a new law to block all technology, particularly virtual private network (VPN) services, from accessing banned websites in their respective countries. Cybersecurity legislation has been tightening in recent years for both Beijing and Moscow -- in several ways, such as user data collection and physical data retention regulations -- but this move has major implications for access to many Western websites such as Wikipedia, Facebook, and Reddit, which don’t allow content to be censored. It remains to be seen how this will be carried out or what will happen to those users with existing accounts who will be unable to access the websites, but it is scheduled to come into effect November 1 this year in Russia, and February 1, 2018 in China.

IISP Analyst Holly Dragoo: "Quite a disturbing trend, but honestly, it’s a bit surprising we haven’t seen this earlier. Timing coincides with another Russian law to link chat apps with actual user phone numbers…suspiciously just a few months before the Russian elections in March 2018. This will surely affect dissident groups trying to organize protests and ex-patriate Internet users in both countries, but what about foreign-owned businesses? I have seen one website state that Russia says businesses will be ”exempt” from this law, but nothing to confirm this or elaborate on what that might mean in practice. China has said their law is for “unauthorized” VPNs, implying there will be allowable exceptions. Without examples or clear criteria on what those might be, can we take their word for it? Enough with the vagary and thinly veiled excuses. These laws are just another way to squash political discourse and enable corruption."



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