Leading VPN targets Russian censorship in provocative billboard campaign

Billboard on a building in London to promote Hide.me anti-Russian censorship campaign
(Image credit: Hide.me)

A leading VPN service has just launched a rather provocative billboard campaign to raise awareness of the need to be protected when browsing the web.

Hide.me decided to target Russia amid a growing number of suspicious deaths linked to those questioning the war in Ukraine and the Kremlin's political views. 

The bold billboards, referring to speaking about Russian politics online without becoming the victim of an “accident”, have been popping up throughout London since December 13th.

The campaign, developed together with creative agency Spellcaster, seeks to get more people using a VPN as it can be a necessary tool to protect their safety both online and offline.

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'Free speech is under threat'

"We primarily wanted to increase awareness about online safety, which can also have real-life implications. In some cases, it can make the difference between life and death," Hide.me CEO Sebastian Schaub told TechRadar. 

The invasion of Ukraine was indeed followed by a string of mysterious deaths among Russian oligarchs and others criticizing Putin's actions online.  

"People should have freedom online without having to worry about their safety," said Schaub. "The fact is, free speech is under threat, and tools like a VPN are becoming a must for consumers."

With 10 years of experience under its belt and a community of over 25 million users between its free VPN and premium service, Hide.me hopes to allow more and more people to browse the web freely and securely. 

A VPN is a tool that spoofs people's real location while encrypting all the data leaving their devices. This means that they can bypass censorship and secure their digital life in a couple of clicks.

As the use of such security software is increasingly widespread among various types of users, downloading a secure VPN has become a necessity for those living under strict internet restrictions and invasive surveillance practices. 

Since the war began, Russia VPN usage soared among those looking to access otherwise censored content and protect their online anonymity. 

Unfortunately, this wasn't an isolated trend. 

From conflicts to social unrest, there were countless instances triggering the use of VPN worldwide over the past year. 

As Hide.me chief marketing officer, Kristijan Janušić said: "We wanted to bring attention to this topic by addressing delicate situations that some people are interested in and want to be vocal about but don’t feel empowered to speak out."

Being London is a cosmopolitan city home to many major media outlets, it was a natural choice to launch the campaign. The end goal, though, seems to extend the reach to other cities, starting off in Europe.         

When asked about any plans for further campaigns targeting other authoritative regimes, Schaub said: "If the narrative fits, most definitely yes, we'll never limit ourselves as we plan on staying completely open, honest, edgy and brave." 

Chiara Castro
Senior Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to chiara.castro@futurenet.com