Enter a website above and click "Check" to see if it is blocked in Russia!
Why is Russia blocking websites?
Russia maintains a Federal blacklist overseen by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media.
Internet censorship in Russian is enforced by serval laws put in place in 2012 to censor individual URLs, domain names, and IP addresses.
Certain websites may also apply geo-blocking of content to certain countries (including Russia) due to copyright and licensing arrangements.
How Do We Check?
We have little robots located inside Russia that personally check every single site to confirm whether it is accessible or blocked within the country.
These guys work non-stop to make sure you always know the accessibility of every single website that exists. Pretty cool, right?
We at Fried.com are a group of concerned internet users who want to highlight the state of internet censorship in Putin's Russia. This project is entirely supported by money we would have otherwise spent on vodka.
A little more backstory...
One of my friends recently took a trip to Russia for a wedding. He thought it was a surprisingly beautiful country and many people were rather pleasant, albeit different from what he was used to in the United States.
However, he also learned that he had to do without some of the conveniences of home. He was unable to access some of his favorite websites. They were either blocked by the Russian government or the publishers overseas.
My friend isn’t exactly the most tech-savvy person out there. If I had been with him, I would have showed him how to access these sites by tricking the government by using a Russian VPN.
History of Censorship in Russia
Russia is a unique country with a long-standing war against the freedom of expression. If you look at the history of Russia, you will see censorship dating back at least 200 years.
As far back as the 1860s, Russian publications have documented the government’s efforts to bar citizens from accessing certain content.
Censorship laws have become stricter in the decades since those publications were written. The Soviet government passed a myriad of reforms to limit access to content that it deemed to be counter to the state’s interest. Shortly after the Soviet Union was formed in 1922, almost all new published books aligned with communist philosophies. The Goskomizdat (the Soviet Union’s State Committee for Publishing Houses, Printing Plants, and the Book Trade) was responsible for vetting all published works and only allowed books to be published if they met Stalin’s criteria.
A handful of authors found ways to promote anti-Soviet ideas. They would make vague, allegorical references to concepts that ran counter to the messages of the Soviet government. Anyone that attempted to publish an overtly controversial title faced serious repercussions, ranging from expulsion from literary circles to execution.
The Goskomizdat’s campaign on literary censorship didn’t keep all controversial books out of the hands of the Russian citizenry. Foreign publishers and governments found ways to smuggle books into the country. The CIA often introduced them as tools to spread anti-Soviet sentiments within the Soviet satellite countries. Nevertheless, acceptance of these books was limited, because citizens knew they faced a trip to the gulags or a possible execution if they were caught with them.
June Pachuta Farris, a bibliographer for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies at the Department for Humanities & Social Sciences at the University of Chicago writes that Russian citizens had to abide by strict censorship policies simply to survive. Simply avoiding wrongthink wasn’t enough. They also had to know what to say, so they could be on the right side of the political elite. This was particularly true of academics and other educated professionals. Failure to virtue signal the ideals of Stalinism would leave them starving, for they wouldn’t be given the employment opportunities limited to those that were in Stalin’s good graces.
According to Farris, many people had high hopes that the situation would improve after the fall of the Iron Curtain. They believed a more democratic Russia would lead to a renaissance of new ideas, which could deter censorship and create new opportunities for free speech. Of course, they hoped in vain. There were encouraging signs that Russia would relax its position on censorship shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the new regime has been as much an enemy of censorship as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union under Stalin, Malenkov, Khrushchev, Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders.
“First in the era of the “The Thaw” (early 1960s) and then again in the era of Glasnost (late 1980s), there were signs, at least in some areas, of more permissiveness, a greater freedom of artistic expression. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought new hope that a civil society, based upon just such a system of procedural legality, would develop. Twenty-two years later the issue is unresolved and the battle rages on: unlimited censorship vs. freedom of the press and freedom of political and artistic expression.”
Under the current Russian Federation, hasn’t yielded on its quest for censorship. However, it is facing tremendous difficulty as it struggles to keep Western ideas from its citizens. This hasn’t stopped them from trying. In 2012, the Putin Administration created an Internet blacklist to limit access to many websites. This spurred the use of Russia VPN providers.ru
The government initially defended the blacklist as a way to protect children. They stated that the blacklist would focus primarily on illegal adult content, guides to self-harm and forums where predators looked for vulnerable minors.
However, free speech activists immediately spoke out against the change.
"Of course there are websites that should not be accessible to children, but I don't think it will be limited to that," Yuri Vdovin, vice-president of Citizens' Watch told BBC. "The government will start closing other sites - any democracy-oriented sites are at risk of being taken offline. It will be [an attack on] the freedom of speech on the internet."
Vdovin’s prediction quickly proved true. The federal blacklist contained plenty of sites that conflict with the narrative of the Russian government. If you the tool listed above, you will find that many U.S. and U.K. news site is on the federal government’s blacklist. CNN is blacklisted, while BBC and the Huffington Post are accessible. It isn’t clear what standards the government uses to choose blacklisted sites, but they may be added to the blacklist in the future. Up until mid-2017, Google was also on the blacklist until it removed content that violated Russian regulations and paid over 400 million rubles in fines.
The Russian government has clearly taken a very liberal interpretation of its duties to censor harmful content and is unlikely to lighten up any time soon.
The government has taken an even tougher stance on banning content over the past year. In March 2017, The New York Times reported that the Internet helped spur the largest anti-government protests in five years. Over 99 rallies were held in cities across the Russian Federation, in response to recent allegations of political corruption. Hundreds of protesters were arrested, as the government tried to prove its harsh stance on opposition to the government.
Slate author Emily Parker reported that the government didn’t confine its crackdowns to the streets. While the government had censored some parts of the Internet before, they wanted to take a much stricter stance to deter enemies of the Kremlin.
Parker cited new reports showing that the government intended to implement Internet censorship policies that resembled those of the Chinese government. Most experts felt that it was already too late to implement them, because the citizens of Russia have already been exposed to ideas that may break the spell of the Kremlin’s decades old propaganda campaign. Nevertheless, this isn’t stopping them from trying.
How Putin’s Government Has Used Geo-blocking to Restrict Content
The Russian government has used geo-blocking technology to deter anyone in Russia from accessing certain content. How does geo-blocking technology work?
Whenever you try to access content on the Internet in Russia, your ISP sends a caching request to the host server. If your IP address is forbidden from accessing it, the host provider will redirect your traffic. They may display a webpage that says something like:
“We are sorry. You seem to be in a location where we cannot show you this content. If you think this is a mistake, please contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP).”
The Russian government follows the same approach at the other end of the communication. The ISP is required to evaluate all incoming content requests. If they come from a website on the Federal Blacklist, they will deny the request.
Russian VPN Solutions Are Playing a Role in Fighting the Kremlin’s Censorship
Ever since the Russian government started implementing a new war on the Internet, people began looking for ways to circumvent it. The easiest way to do this is by using a virtual private network (VPN) to trick foreign publishers into thinking you are accessing their site from an IP address in a region that is allowed to access their content. You can also use a VPN to cloak your traffic from your local ISP.
Here are some reasons that a VPN works better than a web proxy:
- Some web proxies pass your IP address to the host site. It doesn’t take a lot of detective work for them to figure out where you are really located and block your access if you are in a forbidden region.
- Traffic on web proxies is almost never encrypted. This means that your Russian Internet Service Provider will be able to see what sites you are accessing. Therefore, it offers no protection at all against the state censorship policies. You will almost certainly end up getting blacklisted from these sites.
- Most content providers are aware of web proxies and how they are used to circumvent geo-blocking. They look at proxy lists like the Supportive Guru blog on a regular basis to update their list of known proxies. If they find people trying to access their sites through one of these proxies, they may ban them from accessing the site.
Since they offer better identity protection, VPNs are frequently used to access content in countries with very strict censorship policies, such as Russia, China and North Korea. These benefits explain why people have tried using Russia VPNs over proxies. According to research from Infoporn, most people use Russian VPNs to protect their anonymity while browsing the Internet, rather than accessing iTunes or other blocked content. This suggests that they are more concerned about protecting their identity from the Russian government’s thought police than anything else.
The government has tried unsuccessfully to block access to VPN Russian services on a couple of occasions. However, there appears to be little they can do to stop people from using them.
In response to the Russian government’s recent attempts to clamp down on free speech, ExpressVPN has reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to offering the highest quality VPNs to protect its users’ privacy and right to free speech:
“Not coincidentally, [new attacks on privacy by the Russian government] only make the security, privacy, and connectivity that VPNs provide more critical than ever. The very purpose of the VPN community is to combat such assaults on free expression… As a privacy company, ExpressVPN will certainly never bow to any regulations that compromise our product’s ability to protect the digital rights of users. More than ever, we’re committed to keeping our users stay connected to the free and open internet, no matter where they are.”
The use of VPNs in Russia has skyrocketed since Russia began escalating its war on free speech.
Are you interested in using some VPN Russia service to defend yourself against Russian attacks on your privacy? Here are some things to be aware of.
- This tool was made with ♥ for Russia -