Russia is about to take measures against the nine virtual private networks (VPNs) who allow local punters to access internationally licensed gambling websites. The announcement follows the operators’ refusals to connect to the government’s Federal State Information System.
The request for connection did not meet with much success
Having approved additional restrictions on VPN use at the end of 2017, Roskomnadzor, Russia’s telecom watchdog, issued a warning to 10 VPN providers this March stating that should they fail to connect to the FGIS, they will be facing consequences. Out of the ten, only one operator complied, the Russia-based Kapersky Lab, while the remaining nine publicly refused the order.
Alexander Zharov, head of Roskomnazdor, has now announced that the resisting providers have 30 days to connect to the FGIS, otherwise the regulator will undertake its own blocking measures.
It will not be the first time Russia’s watchdog resorts to its own means
Roskomnazdor has blocked incompliant VPN services before. It was in November 2016 that they barred access to the VPN provider HideMe only for HideMe to rebrand as HideMyName and continue under a new domain – until it was blocked again on the regulator’s suspicion that the network’s users were viewing forbidden online content. However, HideMe stood up in Russian court claiming Roskomnazdor had failed to specify which inappropriate sites exactly were supposedly being accessed and the court ruled in the provider’s favour.
The regulator has also been trying to block Azino777’s domains and according to Zharov the online casino firm had dropped from the first place on the list of top online video advertisers in Russia to 60th. He has used the case as a proof that the new anti-piracy regulations would restrict the ability of online casinos to target Russian clients.
In the meantime, Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) has been repeatedly in conflict with Google. The last occasion occurred in May when the search giant was found guilty of advertising online casino Vulkan through its AdWords division. The misconduct may cost them up to RUB 500,000 ($7,700), similar amount as they were forced to pay after forbidden pages were permitted to appear in Russian search requests last December. This January, Google started blocking sites specified by Roskamadzor.
Russia does not intend to leave anything to chance
While fighting the violators of its relatively newly imposed regulations, Russia is working on developing its own separate internet, called Runet, so that it could control the online content its citizens are accessing even closer and prevent them from viewing sites that it deems forbidden, thus not having to rely on the compliance of third parties.