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Russia blocks Tor web anonymity service

Russia blocks Tor web anonymity service

Hackers who breached a Russian intelligence contractor found that it had been trying to crack the Tor browser and been working on other secret projects, (Image: BBC)

MOSCOW, Dec 8, 2021 (AFP) – Russia’s media regulator said Wednesday it has blocked the Tor online anonymity service, as authorities press ahead with a campaign to bring the country’s segment of the internet under control.

The internet is the country’s main forum for political debate and opposing voices, and rights activists have described government efforts to pile pressure on internet companies as a censorship bid.

Tor, developed by the Seattle-based The Tor Project, is a network widely popular in Russia which uses encryption to thwart surveillance. It can be used online to cloak IP addresses, effectively blocking tracking by governments.

Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor said it had blocked access to the service.

“The grounds were the spreading of information on the site ensuring the work of services that provide access to illegal content,” Roskomnadzor said in a statement to AFP.

The move is the latest by Roskomnadzor to target a popular Virtual Private Network service, after the regulator banned six similar providers, including Nord VPN and Express VPN, in September.

Authorities have set their sights on foreign internet companies in recent months for not removing banned content such as pornographic material or posts condoning drugs and suicide.

Companies like Facebook and Google have faced heavy fines, and in March, Russia began throttling Twitter’s services after authorities accused the social media platform of failing to delete posts with illegal information.

Russian technology experts have pointed to a “sovereign internet” initiative launched in 2019 that could allow Russia to cut itself off from the global web, giving authorities the power to be able to block Twitter.

Last month, Roskomnadzor published a list of 13 foreign tech companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter that it said must open local offices in Russia by next year or face outright bans.

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