Millions of Russians now have access to information outside the country through virtual private networks.
Russian citizens are turning to virtual private networks (VPNs) in droves in a bid to circumvent state-controlled media reports of the invasion of neighboring Ukraine, according to media reports.
According to the Washington Post, VPNs – which hide users’ identities and locations – are being downloaded in Russia by the hundreds of thousands a day after Russian authorities launched a crackdown on all media outlets that don’t follow the trend. official line on the war.
Millions of Russians now have access to information outside the country with the help of VPNs, which could pose problems for the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin as the attack on Ukraine – described as a “ special military operation” – approaching its third month.
More than 1,000 websites have been restricted by Russian authorities – including Facebook, Instagram and BBC News – since the conflict began, according to an investigation by a VPN technology tracker.
“We didn’t know what was going on around us,” the Post quoted a man named Konstantin as saying. “A lot of people in Russia just watch TV and eat what the government gives them to eat. I wanted to know what was really going on.
Daily downloads in Russia of the 10 most popular VPNs jumped from around 15,000 before the war to 475,000 in March, and continued at a rate of nearly 300,000 a day this week, according to data compiled for the Post by analytics firm Apptopia.
Due to the imposition of sanctions, paying for a VPN has become increasingly difficult as credit cards no longer work outside of Russia.
Russian authorities have sought to limit the use of VPN. Alexander Khinshtein, who heads Russia’s State Duma Committee on Information Policy, said recently that nearly two dozen VPN services have been blocked since mid-March.
“Blocking VPN services is not an easy task, but it’s being done,” he told the Moscow Times.