Internet Censorship
Russia proposes rule that would ban VPNs that don't block content HynoArt/Pixabay

The Russian government is planning to escalate its war against blocked websites and tools that enable uncensored internet access by proposing a bill that would outlaw virtual private network s (VPN) that allow users to access blocked websites, Vedomosti reported.

Under the proposed law, VPNs and other services that anonymize a user’s internet usage would be required to prevent access to websites that are blocked by the Russian government. Failure to comply would result in the VPN service itself being blocked.

Search engines also come under fire from the bill, with potential punishments for linking to banned websites in search results.

Read: What Are VPNs, How Do You Use Them And Do You Need A Virtual Private Network?

The bill effectively would act as a nationwide ban on software that provides unhampered internet access unless services decide to comply with the content blocking mandated by the Russian government.

Lawyers working for the Media Communications Union, a trade group that lobbies for the media and telecommunications companies in Russia, reportedly have been heavily involved in crafting the technical aspects of the bill, Vedomosti said.

Russia’s apparent planned restrictions on VPNs and other proxy providers would undermine the service the resources provide to users. Many VPNs do not monitor or record user traffic and do not place any sort of content restrictions on their products.

VPNs work by creating an encrypted connection between a user and a remote server and funneling the user’s actions through that tunnel. Requests from the user and responses from an outside server (such as a website they are trying to access) are run through the remote server so internet service providers and other third parties are unable to see or track the activity.

Read: China VPN Ban: Government Requires Official Approval For Use

In addition to the targeting of VPNs, the government also plans to crack down on search engines and their linking practices. The country’s legislators intend to prevent links to blocked sites from appearing in search results, arguing that it encourages users to attempt to access the banned material.

A bill aimed at search companies would mandate the removal of links to blocked sites and would levy a $12,400 fine per breach on any service that fails to comply. Yandex, the largest search provider in Russia, has argued the rule adds undue burden to search engines.