How to easily get around Internet censorship in Russia

It's really quite simple.


Dylan Love


Published Feb 2, 2015   Updated May 29, 2021, 3:37 pm CDT

The Russian government uses an authoritarian method to prevent the spread of unwanted information online. It blocks those sites hosting “objectionable” material and makes them inaccessible to people within the country’s borders.

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But as the saying goes, “information wants to be free.” Any enterprising Internet user in Russia is able to get around these restrictions pretty easily. Russian news site Meduza operates out of neighboring country Latvia, and it offers a number of tips on how Russians can browse an uncensored Internet.

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The easiest way to do so is to install a browser plugin called Hola. This plugin is a simple VPN client, which lets people disguise their locations to make it look as though they are browsing the Web from another country—one where the Internet is unrestricted. It works with all major browsers and platforms (except the plugin-unfriendly Safari) — Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer are covered, as are Android, iOS, and even Windows Phone.

The next easiest method is to use a feature built into the less-popular Opera browser called Opera Turbo. When you use this feature, your Web browsing activity goes through Opera servers in Norway, which have access to the uncensored Web and strip out a lot of unneeded junk from the sites you visit. Per Opera’s description, the server “removes any extraneous page elements, shaves off image pixels you won’t miss, diagnoses the state of your connection, and compresses downloads.” So not only does it get around state-sponsored censorship, but it makes your Web browsing speedier at the same time.

For Russians who speak a second language, Google Translate can circumvent censorship by passing Web pages through its translation servers before delivering a newly generated page to those who would otherwise not be able to read it. It’s a less-desirable option, as it might mangle some of the language, but the gist of the content will generally still be intact.

Photo via Jussi Mononen/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Feb 2, 2015, 11:21 am CST