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How Millions of Russians are Tearing Holes in the Digital Iron Curtain


Destruction in the Ukrainian town of Borodyanka.

Credit: Wojciech Grzedzinski/The Washington Post

When Russian authorities blocked hundreds of Internet sites in March, Konstantin decided to act. The 52-year-old company manager in Moscow tore a hole in the Digital Iron Curtain, which had been erected to control the narrative of the Ukraine war, with a tool that lets him surf blocked sites and eyeball taboo news.

Konstantin turned to a virtual private network, an encrypted digital tunnel more commonly known as a VPN. Since the war began in February, VPNs have been downloaded in Russia by the hundreds of thousands a day — a massive surge in demand that represents a direct challenge to President Vladimir Putin's attempt to seal Russians off from the wider world. By protecting the locations and identities of users, VPNs are now granting millions of Russians access to blocked material.

Downloading one in his Moscow apartment, Konstantin said, brought back memories of the 1980s in the Soviet Union — when he used a shortwave radio to hear forbidden news of dissident arrests on U.S.-funded Radio Liberty.

From The Washington Post
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