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VPN demand spikes in Russia as social media, internet services stop functioning

VPN demand spikes in Russia as social media, internet services stop functioning
Photo Credit: Pixabay
15 Mar, 2022
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With the Russian government blocking access to multiple social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the country’s citizens are flocking to virtual private networks (VPNs) to evade the current curbs. 

A VPN gives its users online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection.  

In Russia, this technology can cover up an internet user’s identity and location while they are trying to access blocked websites and services. Even though the country’s authorities have blocked several VPNs last year, a blanket ban is yet to be enforced. 

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Data monitoring firm Top10VPN in a finding said that the demand for VPN services peaked at 2,088% on Sunday, driven by the average daily rise in the week following the Ukraine invasion. 

Furthermore, interest was 1,394% higher than the baseline on Friday and 1,814% higher on Saturday. 

“Whenever authoritarian regimes around the world try to control the populace by disrupting internet access, people turn to VPN services in order to circumvent restrictions. These anti-censorship tools are often the only way for people affected by social media blocks to communicate with each other during the upheavals that often accompany such measures,” the report added.   

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Top10VPN further said that the official ban on Facebook and Twitter on March 4 had previously resulted in demand for VPN services, pushing it by over 1,000% higher than the baseline for two consecutive days.   

The demand got resurgent in the weekend of March 12-13 as the Russian authorities banned Instagram in retaliation for parent company Meta “permitting calls to violence” against the “Russian military” to remain on its platforms.  

“The restrictions on Facebook and Twitter had begun over the weekend of February 26-27 with internet speeds upon accessing those platforms so severely throttled as to render them unusable, prompting Russians to turn in increasing numbers to VPN services.  

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VPN demand surged over the course of that week and by March 3 was over 750% higher than the base,” the finding added.  

Top10VPN also noted that Russia has blocked over 300 websites related to the war, including BBC News, Deutsche Welle, and Voice of America Russian-language sites.  

The government is also drawing up a blueprint to disconnect from the global internet and create its own private Internet such as the one present in China.  

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Read more: Digitally isolated Russia planning to sever all ties from the internet