Russia bans VPNs and other anonymous web browsing tools in censorship crackdown

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) will soon be banned in Russia as part of a new bill signed into law by President Vladimir Putin. The aim of the law is to prevent citizens from accessing banned websites by using VPNs to circumvent the government censorship.

As CNN reports the Russian government runs a blacklist that contains thousands of websites that are restricted from the public. VPNs allow people to work around censorship by encrypting and disguising their internet traffic.

The blacklist was originally meant to cover websites that related to illegal content such as drugs and child pornography. Some groups worry that the law will be applied broadly to expand censorship to political dissenters. In a statement to CNN, Amnesty International called the law the "latest blow in an assault on online freedom." According to The Verge, Russia briefly used the blacklist to outright ban Reddit and Wikipedia "over single pages that contained content on drug use" in 2015, backing up concerns of potential overreach.

Russia's VPN ban will go into effect on November 1, at which point it will join China, which began restricting VPNs earlier in July, in a recent surge in state efforts to crack down on VPN use.

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