Internet Censorship Increases in Russia

The last couple of months have been bad ones for Internet openness in Russia — and nearly half of Russians don’t seem to mind, according to a report on Internet censorship in the country.

The report, which was produced by the Internet Policy Observatory, found that 49 percent of Russians say that some information on the Internet should be censored. In particular, respondents cited content related to homosexuality, anti-government protests and the controversial band Pussy Riot as information that Russian authorities should block from Internet users in Russia.

In addition, 58 percent of respondents to the researchers said that they would not object to government bans on Internet content in response to national-security threats.

For Russians, such bans are not merely theoretical. The government in recent months has blocked Wikipedia, charging that the online encyclopedia contained information relating to drug production, which is illegal in Russia.

Russian authorities also imposed a temporary ban on Reddit. It was lifted only after the site agreed to comply with government requests to censor certain types of content within particular countries.

And, to make sure that online content the government wishes to remove remains inaccessible, Russian authorities have added — a website that provides snapshots of websites from previous points in time — to the list of sites unavailable in the country.

At the same time that it has been blocking various websites, the Russian government has also taken steps to prevent Internet users from operating in anonymity. A new law requires companies to store personal data on servers inside the country, where authorities can access it.

Handling Internet Censorship

What to do if you belong to the half of the Russian population that does not support Internet censorship? One important strategy for overcoming censorship and privacy restrictions is to use a VPN or Tor to access the Web. Those services will hide your identity online while also (in most cases) allowing you to access content that a government attempts to block.

It’s also a good idea to take advantage of services that can’t store your personal data, because you never give it to them — like Seafile for cloud storage.

For more online privacy tips that apply in Russia and everywhere else, click here.

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