As VPN (opens in new tab) services allow users to bypass geo-blocking and get around internet restrictions, it's no surprise that VPN usage in Russia (opens in new tab) has continued to soar as a result of the country's invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
According to a new blog post (opens in new tab) from Atlas VPN (opens in new tab), the latest wave of VPN installs in the country began on March 11 after the Russian communication agency Roskomnadzor (opens in new tab) announced that it would ban Instagram. Then just a few days later on March 14, VPN installs in Russia reached an all-time high, surging by 11,253 percent beyond their normal level.
Russia's Instagram ban (opens in new tab) was allegedly in response to Facebook's decision to temporarily allow for calls for violence against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian soldiers in some countries.
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VPN usage in Russia has also increased as the country's government has tightened its grip on independent media outlets and banned Russian websites from calling the invasion of Ukraine a war. Instead, they have been told to refer to the invasion as a “special military operation”. At the same time, Putin recently signed a new law that makes posting “fake news (opens in new tab)” about the invasion a punishable offense that can lead to up to 14 years in prison.
Interest in VPNs
As the invasion of Ukraine continues, Russian citizens have turned away from Yandex (opens in new tab) and have begun to use Google Search (opens in new tab) to learn more about VPNs in order to avoid online restrictions and censorship.
By using Google Trends (opens in new tab), Atlas VPN was also able to learn more about the number of “VPN” searches conducted using Google's search engine in Russia over the last 30 days. For those unfamiliar, Google Trends provides numbers which show search interest relative to the highest point for a given region and time with a value of 100 denoting peak popularity for a term.
> Huge rise in Russia VPN demand seen following Ukraine invasion (opens in new tab)
> Firefox bins Russian search engines over misinformation fears (opens in new tab)
> Anonymous launches "cyber war" against Russia (opens in new tab)
While VPN was at less than 10 points throughout most of February, the search term saw a dramatic upsurge in interest beginning on February 25. However, it reached an all-time high on March 12 right before the country's ban on Instagram was set to go into effect.
Thankfully for Russian citizens, the majority of VPN services aren't blocked in the country yet and they can continue to use these tools to overcome government restrictions on free speech surrounding the invasion of Ukraine and other sensitive issues.
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