The Russian control of what sites get displayed within their political limits just got tighter. Earlier this week, the Russian censorship agency Roskomnadzor has mandated that some service providers have to link their servers in Russia to its network. The reason cited is to stop users within Russia from reaching banned sites. If the 10 identified VPN providers fail to comply before April 26, their services will be blocked, according to a machine translation of the order.
The 10 VPN providers that have received this communication are ExpressVPN, HideMyAss!, Hola VPN, IPVanish, Kaspersky Secure Connection, KeepSolid, NordVPN, OpenVPN, TorGuard, and VyprVPN.
In a stand against information censorship, five out of these ten VPN service providers are removing their servers from Russian jurisdiction.
Express VPN, IPVanish, KeepSolid, NordVPN, and TorGuard will; however, continue to offer their services to Russian customers, provided they are able to reach their servers located outside of Russia.
IPVanish has stated that they see this order as a part of Russia’s “censorship agenda”, which first started in 2017. That was when the Russian government enforced a law forbidding the use of VPNs to access blocked Web sites. They had faced similar demands from Russia in 2016 when a new Russian law required online service providers to store customers’ private data for a year. In response, the company removed all physical server presence in Russia in accordance with their strict zero-logs policy. They are responding the same way this time as well.
KeepSolid maintains that thought it has no servers in Russia, it would not comply with the order to link with Roskomnadzor’s network. It has earlier dealt with dealing with the Great Firewall of China and will probably fight the Russian censorship attempt by a similar strategy. “We had developed a special KeepSolid Wise protocol, designed for use in countries where the use of VPN is blocked,” a spokesperson for the company said in an email statement to media.
TorGuard is talking of removing all its physical servers from Russia and deploying more servers in adjacent countries to protect fast download speeds for customers in the region. It is also cutting off its business with data centers in the region.
NordVPN is shutting down all its Russian servers and shredding them. It has realized that some of its customers who connected to its Russian servers without the use of the NordVPN application, will have to reconfigure their devices to ensure their security. However, those using the app will be able to connect because the app connects to Russia has been removed.
ExpressVPN maintains as a matter of principle that it will never cooperate with censorship of the internet by any country. The company’s vice president Harold Li said in a mail that blocking traffic would be ineffective. “We expect that Russian internet users will still be able to find means of accessing the sites and services they want, albeit perhaps with some additional effort.”
However, Moscow based Kaspersky Labs, the sixth brand, has agreed to comply with the order. The spokesperson maintained that as a responsible company, Kaspersky Lab complies with the laws of all the countries where it operates, including Russia.
The other four could not be reached for comments.