Internet, videos, social media outlets, and mobile phones are some of the terms and sentences that are defining our reality and have been since the start of the new millennium. Quietly, but surely, those services and technologies have become mainstays in our lives and those of our children.
Long gone are the days in which personal visits or even phone calls were necessary to establish some kind of direct communication with peers. Now, a conversation is one click or tap away, and little screens make video calls possible even if the subjects of the chat are separated by thousands of kilometers.
Russia is no exception to the rule. The country is the biggest in the world by physical area, and one of the most prominent financial and political forces in our current reality. That means that the use of the Internet is widely spread in the nation, and that may have become a problem for president Vladimir Putin as he tries to censor Internet freedom for Russians to enjoy.
The Internet video revolution
The Internet is migrating to a more video-centered world of entertainment and even news-related content. Each day, more accounts and hubs base their modus operandi in short clips of interesting stuff going on the planet.
That is true for news sites, entertainment pages, and all services in most of the world’s countries, including Russia. People living and vacationing in a metropolis like Moscow, Kazan, Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, and Nizhny Novgorod, among others, are constantly looking to see clips about just anything.
The most commonly used apps and websites for video are YouTube and Instagram. The former is a Google product that allows people to upload and watch all kinds of clips, of any duration. The latter, meanwhile, became prominent for its work with pictures but began including short videos in its offerings a while ago to great success.
YouTube: the world’s number one video platform
YouTube is inarguably the most successful and widely known video platform in the entire planet. The enterprise is American, and it can be defined as a clip hosting service that people can access from any part of the globe.
As most Internet services do, YouTube has content available for specific locations and areas, which restricts some users from watching certain videos from some countries. However, the issue can be solved with a VPN – more on that later.
YouTube has its headquarters and offices in the location of San Bruno, California. Three PayPal employees; Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim, founded the company in February 2005, and it was later bought by online giants Google for almost $2 billion.
Within YouTube, users around the world can watch, upload, share, comment, rate, favorite, and report videos, with the opportunity to both create and subscribe to channels available on the platform.
Instagram: a favorite photo and video suite
Meanwhile, Instagram is newer than YouTube and works in a similar, albeit entirely different way. This social network and service provides users with the opportunity to post pictures and short clips (with a duration of no more than one minute) as a way of interacting with other people from all locations.
On top of that, Instagram works with algorithms that recognize your preferences when it comes to content to show you. Users can “like” other people’s pictures and videos, as well as comment on them.
Instagram is very popular in Russia, especially with tourists looking to document their vacation time with the world. Nowadays, however, the government has made clear that it doesn’t like this outlet very much.
Facebook, Inc. is the owner of Instagram, which was created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger in October 2010 exclusively on iOS. Now, it has versions in Android and every other significant device or operating system.
Part of the magic of Instagram is that it also offers its users the opportunity of editing their pictures with a wide array of filters, and they also have the chance to organize content with tags, save favorite posts, and access location-based information.
Russia and the Instagram and YouTube uncertainty
YouTube and Instagram are trendy apps and web services. However, their use in Russia is in jeopardy as they are the focus of a political conflict between the nation’s richest businessmen and a prominent opposition leader, Oleg Deripaska.
As it turns out, Russia’s Internet censorship organism shortlisted content on both Instagram and YouTube because of a court decision in which it was determined that there were privacy violations affecting Deripaska. Alexei Navalny hasn’t agreed to erase or take off the web the videos and pictures in question because he thinks they are corruption evidence.
VPN, the remedy to your online privacy
Fortunately, the Internet provides a tool to help users watch unlimited and unblocked international online content from anywhere, including Russia. That resource is called VPN, which is the short version to identify Virtual Private Networks.
They form virtual tunnels in which all the users’ information, such as IP address and generated online content, will pass through with the intention of protecting those assets from the advances of the government (in this case, the Russian one,) hackers, online stores, advertisers, spammers, illegal crypto miners, virus developers, and anyone or anything that threatens your online privacy and wellbeing.
With a VPN, you can be able to unblock YouTube and Instagram in Russia. However, make sure to stick around for the whole article to understand the caveats of VPN use in the country.
The use of VPN in Russia
Now that we have established what VPNs are, we are going to discuss their current landscape in Russia. Because of a decision made on November 2017, the Russian government banned every VPN provider that didn’t comply to Internet restrictions.
Since VPN’s bread and butter are privacy and encryption, and the government is asking them to hand over users’ logs, the scenario is very disadvantageous for people that value online security and anonymity.
The government says that it wants to “prevent the spreading of extremist materials on the Internet,” so it is making enormous efforts to censor and control the content that their citizens generate.
While the intention, according to government officials, is not to block access to users, it does want to avoid “unlawful content,” affecting all VPN users. If a user gets caught using an encryption service, you can be hit with a 300,000 RUB ($5,100) penalty.
Roskomnadzor is the Russian’s communications agency and the one in charge of shortlisting any threats to the national security. As it turns out, VPNs are now enemies of the Russian state: they can exist and perform operations in the country, but they have to comply to authorities, and doing that, they lose their purpose.
Complying to Russian authorities would mean that VPN clients will be obliged to store not only data or metadata but entire communications and users’ activities. VPNs would not be trustworthy or credible under those circumstances, so numerous apps and brands have chosen to withdraw their servers from the country.
How to unblock YouTube and Instagram in Russia
- Assess the market and select a VPN with servers in numerous countries and robust encryption.
- Access to the VPN website.
- Sign up for the VPN service, providing a valid email address and a payment method, as well as personal information such as your name and location.
- Download and install the VPN client or app on your device or operating system.
- Sign in to your recently created VPN account.
- Connect to a server from a country that does not ban YouTube or Instagram use.
- Unblock YouTube and Instagram in Russia while enjoying privacy and anonymity.
Best VPN to unblock YouTube and Instagram in Russia
- TorGuard: While TorGuard does not agree with Russian government’s laws, it provides users the opportunity to unblock websites there due to their advanced Stealth VPN technology which won’t register as standard “VPN traffic”. On top of that, you can use it while inside their territory to watch videos on YouTube or Instagram with no hassle. The service costs $10 per month and has top encryption, 3,000 servers in 55 nations, and a helpful customer service.
- IPVanish: In 2016, IPVanish withdrew its Russian VPN servers located in Moscow because of disagreements with the Russian law. However, people can still use it for unblocking YouTube and Instagram, as it is perfect for streaming because of its fast speed rates. It also has DNS leak protection, a kill switch, various configuration options, and 750 servers in 60 nations around the globe, all for $10 per month.
- Private Internet Access: Just like IPVanish, Private Internet Access removed servers from Russia in July 2016 after some of them were seized by Russian authorities without notification. Although PIA refuses to comply with the existing laws, it still lets people in the country use the services to various ends, including watching YouTube and Instagram. Private Internet Access is a quality option because it offers excellent services and encryption for an affordable price of $6.95 per month.
- GhostVPN: Just like TorGuard, GhostVPN’s stealth VPN feature facilitates anonymous browsing in Russia. It has 1,600 servers in 51 nations, unlimited speeds, bandwidth and server switching, and OpenVPN support. The live chat features the 15-day money-back guarantee are enticing offerings, too.
In conclusion, Russia is going through some delicate times regarding online and data privacy. The government is threatening to censor YouTube and Instagram, as well as banning VPN brands altogether.
However, there are still VPN companies that are able to function within Russian territory without having to comply with the country’s unfair data privacy and censorship laws.