Russia: Where will all the VPN services go?

In Moscow, activists march over new censorship regulations

Internet in Russia

Hundreds of people have marched through central Moscow calling for internet freedom. From political party representatives to business men are worried about the new laws which seek to control the information posted online. The idea of the new regulations is to ban the use of internet proxy services, including virtual private networks (VPN).

Most of the demonstrators chanted slogans that included "No to censorship, no to dictatorship!" and "Down with the police state!". They also repeated mottos against Russian President Vladimir Putin such as, "Russia without Putin and censorship!". Even if the protest itself was thoroughly organized and the authorities had given their permission, during the event some of the protesters were detained because of the sayings intoned and the anti-presidential symbols used.

Various media outlets affirmed that a large number of civilians attended the event but, on the other hand, government sources stated otherwise. Opposition activists have frequently accused authorities of downsizing the truth when it comes to public protests.

Over the last couple of years, authorities have had a strong influence over the media, radio, and television but Internet had always been excluded until now. The governmental elections are around the corner and the opposition has been using this worldwide service to increase the number of supporters which, most suspect, is the reason why the new censorship regulations are in the midst.  

Russian officials have repeatedly rejected these affirmations. Vyacheslav Volodin, the current speaker of the lower house of Parliament declared that “the internet in Russia is freer than in the United States” but the continuous protests seem to be telling a different story.  For Human Right Watch, the new laws can slow down the access to information online, but it will not stop the Internet in Russia; the technology is too hard to control at this point and the federal media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, won’t be enough.

Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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