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Why has Russia banned Tor?

In news that will come as a profound shock to absolutely no one, the Russian government is cracking down on internet freedoms again. The latest episode in their long-running campaign against free speech involves a ban on tools that provide online privacy. Specifically, they’re targeting the Tor browser.

Malcolm Higgins

Malcolm Higgins

Dec 20, 2021 · 2 min read

Why has Russia banned Tor?

What’s happening in Russia?

In early December 2021, Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media accused Tor of facilitating the dissemination of illegal content.

Consequently, this inventively-named government agency has banned citizens from accessing the service.

For context, Tor is a service that encrypts user data and routes it through remote servers, allowing people to maintain their privacy while browsing the internet.

The ban is already being enforced by Russia’s internet service providers. For a country with more than 300,000 daily Tor users, that’s quite a radical change.

Why is Russia banning Tor?

As stated, the government claims that it's just trying to prevent Russian citizens from accessing illegal content. But is that really the main reason for the ban?

Under the increasingly authoritarian regime, Russia has earned its reputation as a dangerous place to speak your mind.

Journalists are regularly threatened, jailed, or worse. Political opposition leaders have been arrested, free speech advocates face continual harassment, and online news outlets are extremely restricted.

With all that in mind, it’s easy to see why Tor — a service that protects the identity of its users and allows them to access free news media and communication networks — might not be popular with the current government.

Russia vs. privacy

Russia isn’t just targeting Tor; they’re attacking the individual’s right to online privacy. Tor will join the ranks of the numerous similar services the country has already outlawed, including many VPNs.

A VPN, or virtual private network, is a tool that encrypt internet traffic and hides users’ locations, allowing them to access the internet safely and securely. A premium VPN can stop internet service providers from spying on users and recording the websites they visit, so it’s no surprise that Moscow isn’t a fan.

Restricting free communication and journalism is a key part of any authoritarian regime, and services like Tor are a direct threat to their power.

2022 looks set to bring many new uncertainties and geopolitical unknowns, but one thing remains fairly reliable. The Russian government’s campaign against privacy will continue.