growing internet censorship
Russia – The Russian authorities redoubled their efforts in 2021 to repress internet freedoms in the country. Over the past few years, the government blocked popular censorship circumvention tools and experimented with novel censorship technologies to repress the online freedoms of Russians.
The Human Rights Watch said that the Russian authorities expanded “oppressive” Internet laws, and pressured the tech companies to comply with “increasingly stifling regulations.” Anastasiia Kruope, assistant Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch said that the authorities are using the technology to engage in nontransparent, unlawful, and extrajudicial restrictions of digital rights in the country. The New York-based human rights watchdog claimed that Russian authorities restrict the rights and freedoms of Russians online.
Russian authorities blocks VPNs
In December, Russian authorities blocked The Onion Router (Tor). It is an encrypted browser commonly used to circumvent local internet censorship. A 2018 law of Russia introduced fines for search engines providing access to proxy services, such as virtual private networks.
Since June, Russia has blocked at least eight virtual private networks (VPNs) service providers. In December, the authorities also opened inquiries into the work of six more VPN services.
Russia’s sovereign internet law
Since the adoption of the “sovereign internet” law in 2019, Russia has tightened its control over the internet infrastructure across the country. The 2019 “sovereign internet” law requires internet service providers (ISPs) to install equipment that allows Russian authorities to circumvent providers and automatically block content online. The law provides for “restriction of access” for violators.
In September, digital rights groups reported the temporary blocking of access to the Google Docs service by Russian Internet service providers. Google Docs is an online word processor. In March, the authorities used DPI technology to slow down access to Twitter. Over the past year, the authorities have fined tech companies, including major social media platforms, for allegedly violating Russian internet laws.