Russia is joining China in a crackdown on Virtual Private Networks, VPN apps that allow users to view internet content banned in their home countries. CNN reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed a bill enacting the ban, which takes effect November 1.
Expanding Censorship in Russia
Few of us are naïve enough to still think the world is a happy-go-lucky place, but this Russian law reinforces that. Leonid Levin, a chairman on information policy and communications, says the law doesn’t introduce any “new censorship.” However, the measure is clearly aimed at restricting what Russian residents can and can’t do on the Internet.
The internet regulator in Russia, Roskomnadzor, maintains a blacklist of thousands of web sites. The registry was formed in 2012, as a reaction to the Russian protests from 2011 to 2013. While Russia’s Internet blacklist law, at first, targeted child pornography, advocating suicide, and illegal drugs, it didn’t stay that way for long. The law was quickly amended to include content “suspected in extremism,” “calling for illegal meetings,” inciting hatred,“ and ”violating the established order.” Now, the Russian government is using those same laws to ban VPN apps.
The Chinese Ban on VPN Apps
We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China. We know this stuff is complicated, but it is your responsibility to understand and make sure your app conforms with all local laws.- ExpressVPN
China has also issued its own ban on VPN apps, one that Apple has recently begun to comply with. On Saturday, July 29, two VPN operators were notified that their products were being removed from the Chinese iTunes App Store.
A second service, Star VPN, said in a tweet that it had received a similar notice. Censorship is strong in China, blocking access to services like Google, Facebook, and even The New York Times. China’s internet regulator claims the measures are part of an ongoing campaign aimed at “cleaning and standardizing” access to the Internet.
It Ain’t All Puppy Dogs and Rainbows, Folks
These actions prove that the world definitely isn’t the happy place we’d like it to be. Then again, all you have to do is turn on the news to see that. Regardless, it’s disheartening to see Cupertino bending to the Chinese edicts, but I suppose it’s something Apple has to do to maintain its growing business in China.