Putin signs in law to ban all VPNs in Russia by end of 2017

31 Jul 2017

Russian president Vladimir Putin. Image: Frederic Legrand - COMEO/Shutterstock

Joining China in its clampdown on VPNs is Russia, whose government has ruled that they will be banned outright by the end of 2017.

The world’s greatest powers are impeding their citizens’ access to virtual private networks (VPNs) in efforts to clamp down on what they perceive to be illegal content.

According to Reuters, Russia is one such country where a person’s ability to mask their IP address, in an attempt to circumvent identification or access content blocked there, will no longer be legal.

Signed into law on Sunday (30 July) by Vladimir Putin after approval from Russia’s lower house of government (Duma), it will mean all VPN services will be banned starting on 1 November this year.

In a brief statement, the head of the Duma’s information policy committee, Leonid Levin, emphasised that the law was only to block “unlawful content” and would not affect law-abiding citizens.

One such illegal service in Russia is the popular business social network LinkedIn, which was shut off in the country in November of last year after the company refused to transfer data on Russian users to servers based there.

Joins China in clampdown

China has also clamped down on VPN services, revealing earlier this month that it plans to enact a similar law starting from February of next year.

Not unlike the statement issued by the Duma, China said that the ban would not affect citizens who followed the law, but would target those trying to access illegal content.

“The object of the new regulation is those unauthorised enterprises and individuals who haven’t got the licence to use VPNs,” it said.

How major tech companies react to the news remains to be seen, but Apple at least is following Chinese government rulings, starting with the removal of dozens of VPN apps from the Chinese App Store over the weekend.

This decision has drawn criticism from VPN providers, saying it is a contradiction of Apple’s attitude towards the right to free speech and censorship.

Russian president Vladimir Putin. Image:  Frederic Legrand – COMEO/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic