THE BLOG
01/27/2016 02:21 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2017

Navigating the Internet in Mother Russia

We've broken down all the ins and outs of the Great Firewall of China. Now it's time to discuss exactly how to navigate the Internet in Mother Russia aka: the Rutnet.

Are you ready?

What can you do on the Internet in Russia?

In Russia, you can use some of the world's most popular social media sites like Twitter Facebook, Google+ and Instagram. In general, these popular platforms, along with the local social media sites Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki, Moi Mir and LiveJournal, are alive and well. Over 180 million Russian users are active on these social platforms.

These sites, however, must abide by the country's controversial blogging law.

The blogger law requires bloggers with more than 3,000 readers to register with the authorities and publish content under their real names.

If they don't abide by these laws, they risk being blocked as Google, Twitter and Facebook discovered this past summer -- when the Russian government threatened to pull the plug on all three.

As far as search engines go, market research has shown that the local Yandex is the most popular search engine with approximately 60% of the Russian market share. Google falls second with approximately 34% percent.

Yandex offers the ability to search global or Russian-specific results and encourages natural language search. You can find a wide array of relevant search results, but there certainly is censorship when it comes to terms with certain themes, as we'll soon discuss.

What can't do you on the Internet in Russia?

The Roskomnadzor, the Russian government's top Internet regulator, is very sensitive to several key topics including: political protest, profanity, drugs, suicide, "gay propaganda" and extremism.

Interestingly enough, on the ground of being 'extremist', the official Jehovah's Witnesses website banned by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation in July of 2015.

Not surprisingly, major foreign and local gambling and pornography sites are blocked as well.

But restrictions aren't only limited to sites revolving around certain 'questionable' themes. As mentioned earlier, Russia also nearly pulled the plug on three of the world's leading sites last summer.

Since sites such as Google, Twitter and Facebook use encryption technology, the Russian government is unable to block any specific sites or pages they deem inflammatory. Therefore they rely on regulations like the blogger law in the hopes of maintaining some control.

While the Russian government frequently supplies data requests to these Internet heavy hitters, Facebook, Twitter and Google have remained steadfast in withholding information-- pointing to local US jurisdiction.

Other pages, however, like Reddit, GitHub and Wikipedia were temporarily blocked for featuring content related to suicide and drugs.

Youtube has also been in some hot water. The entire site was almost blocked temporarily after hosting unauthorized copies of local Russian TV shows.

How to Bypass Mother Russia's Rutnet Rules:

If you want to keep track of what's currently prohibited on the Russian web, you can follow the unofficial antizapret.info and for the "official word" the Roskomnadzor's official database of banned addresses.

If you'd rather not worry about Mother Russia's watchful eye, you can browse the web with a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN allows you to connect to a remote network via an encrypted (encoded) connection. This essentially means that you to browse the web as if you were in another country through a secure and anonymous internet connection. So say goodbye to the Rutnet and hello to the entire net.

The author, Karen Mesoznik is the Inbound Marketing Manager at SaferVPN.

Crowdsourcing the struggle for human rights. Be part of the solution at Movements.org.

Correction: this post has been updated to reflect the accurate number of Russian social media users.