Search Engines in Russia cannot link to banned VPN services and Internet proxy services

Pierluigi Paganini June 10, 2018

Russia strengthens online censorship by announcing fines for search engines that link to VPN serviced banned in the country.

Russian Government has approved a new bill to punish search engines that are not aligned with Moscow and that allows its users to find VPN services, and anonymization tools that allow circumventing the censorship.

According to the amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation, Duma will also impose fines on search engines if they will continue to provide results about queries on an up-to-date database of blocked domains upon users’ request.

Fines for individuals will range between 3,000 and 5,000 rubles (roughly $48 to $80), while officials will face fines up to 50,000 rubles (roughly $800), and legal entities will face fines between 500,000 to 700,000 (roughly $8,019 to $11,227).

“The failure of the operator to perform the search system to connect to this system “entails the imposition of an administrative fine on citizens in the amount of three thousand to five thousand rubles; on officials – from thirty thousand to fifty thousand rubles; on legal entities – from five hundred thousand to seven hundred thousand rubles, “- reads the press release published by the Duma.

Russians ordinary use VPN services and other anonymizing services to access blocked content and bypass censorship, in the following graph we can see the continuous growth for the number of Tor users in Russia.

Search Engines Tor User VPN Russia


In 2017, Russia’s parliament voted to ban web tools that could be used by people to surf outlawed websites, and the Duma approved the proposed bill to oblige anyone using an online message service to identify themselves with a telephone number.

The bill prohibited the use of any service from the Russian territory if they could be used to access blacklisted websites.

VPN operators and proxy services operating in the country must register themselves with the Government regularity authority.

Since May 3rd, 2018, Russia’s media and communication regularity authority Roskomnadzor blocked over 50 virtual private networks (VPNs), Web Proxies and Anonymizing networks.

However, many VPNs and Internet proxy services still haven’t complained about the country law by registering themselves, for this reason, Moscow introduced fines for search engines.

The Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor will also provide a Federal State Information System (FGIS) containing the list of banned websites and services in the country, and search engines will need to update the results they provide by connecting to FGIS.

Search engines have 30 days to be aligned with Federal State Information System (FGIS) if the service providers

Those who fail to connect to this system will also face fines similar to those detailed above.

In May, the Anonymous collective hacked and defaced the subdomain of the Russia’s Federal Agency for International Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) site to protest against the government censorship, with a specific reference to the ban on Telegram.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Russia,  censorship)

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