Earlier this year, China announced a crackdown on VPNs and proxy services in the country and made it mandatory for all VPN providers and leased cable lines operators to have a license from the government in order to use such services.
Now, Russia is also considering to follow a similar path.
The Russian Federation Council has just approved a bill that would outlaw the use of virtual private networks (VPNs), the Tor anonymity network, anonymous mobile messaging services and internet proxy services, citing concerns about the spread of extremist materials.
VPNs are third-party services that help users access block banned websites by encrypting users’ Internet traffic and routeing it through a distant connection, hiding their location data and access sites that are usually restricted or censored by a certain country.
The bill to ban VPNs and proxy services has been passed by the lower house of Russian parliament, the State Duma, on Friday, and only needs to be approved by the upper house and signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law.
Once become law, the bill will force the country’s internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to any providers of proxy or VPN services.
“After identifying the illegal sites and domains, the watchdog will send a notice to the individual service providers….the service providers will get a 72-hour deadline in order to give up the details of the various operators,” VPN provider Le VPN explained.
“The host service providers will get about three days time to stop the service providers from providing the illegal service to the banned domains…[if] providers fail to meet the specified demands within the period of a month, they will face stringent action. The government can put a ban or block them totally.”
Many Russian citizens use VPNs and other Internet proxy services to access blocked content by routeing their traffic through servers outside the country.
While many said that the bill is nothing but a move to enforce strict censorship and limit dissent and political opposition, Russian lawmakers behind the bill argued that this decision was prompted by concerns about the spread of terrorist-related materials hosted online.
Russian authorities have begun to crack down on Internet freedoms tighten controls on online services in recent years, citing security concerns.
Just last month, the Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor threatened to block Telegram messaging app after the FSB intelligence service said those behind April’s deadly Saint Petersburg metro bombing attacks had used the encrypted chat service.