Each year Russia tries to find new ways to make censorship more widespread. This year, they’ve already made significant strides in blocking encrypted messaging apps like Telegram, and in order to block users getting around restrictions, they’ve even set forth a “VPN Ban” with the only legal VPNS operating required to retain logs on users.
Users using VPNs to circumvent website blacklists can be issued a fine. Now, they are trying to recruit “volunteers” to help monitor and censor the internet since other tactics and tools have largely been 100% successful in controlling internet users. Even now, people are using VPNs like TorGuard in Russia with Stealth VPN features to remain hidden and retain access to favorite websites.
Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev was recently speaking to a group of search and rescue volunteers when he began to discuss how the internet could also be patrolled as a way to prevent crime. Volunteers would be tasked in finding “banned information” on the internet, and reporting it to authorities and ISPs who could then blacklist the content.
In 2017, almost 250 web pages were being blocked per day in Russia, and in 2018 things are much worse with millions of IPs being affected. However, Russia is not alone in the censorship world, with countries like China leading the way in censorship practices. China also uses patriotic “volunteers” to police and scour the internet controversial content.
The volunteers essentially act like paid online trolls, burying topics by spreading misinformation and dissent. Like China, it’s illegal in Russia to criticize the government, and one can be jailed for spreading controversial content on social media platforms. In Russia, it’s now become legal to confiscate phones without criminal prosecution.