If you’ve been keeping up with the state of bitcoin in Russia, then this news should come as no surprise. The country’s media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, has banned numerous Bitcoin news sites in the past, and LocalBitcoins is the latest victim.
Interestingly enough, the decision to restrict access to the Helsinki-based P2P bitcoin exchange platform was made on July 5th, but didn’t take effect until this weekend. On September 10, Roskomnadzor has officially blacklisted LocalBitcoins for “containing information banned in the Russian Federation.”
LiveBitcoinNews reported that the ban came shortly after trading volumes of bitcoin spiked in Russia. According to LocalBitcoins, Russians traded almost $4 million worth of bitcoins over the past 12 months, which marks nearly a 400% percent increase from last year’s $900,000.
For other countries, a block of similar magnitude might have had a lesser effect, but for Russia, where most (if not all) bitcoin trades are carried out via over-the-counter methods, the impact is much larger.
At this point, Russian legislature surrounding bitcoin is extremely murky and vague at best. Since bitcoin’s open-source implementation in 2009, Russia has been all over the map with their stance on the cryptocurrency.
In 2014, the nation was planning a total bitcoin ban by year’s end and was even considering laying down severe consequences, including possible jail time. Nothing ever came of that, and in August of this year Alexei Moiseev, Russian Deputy Minister of Finance has actually reversed the decision to penalize citizens for bitcoins use. This makes Roskomnadzor’s latest ban all the more curious. Although it’s still early to speculate on Russia’s motives, many cryptocurrency experts are concerned.
That said, Russian netizens are still able to access the platform with relative ease. LocalBitcoins themselves published a recent statement on their blog, detailing (in Russian) several methods that would allow those affected to circumvent the IP ban.
While there are several ways of doing so, the easiest way is by using a VPN. If you don’t already use a VPN in your daily browsing, then the hardest part of this process is actually picking a provider. There are hundreds, if not thousands, to choose from and it’s important to pick a trusted and reliable provider. Personally, I would recommend IPVanish – mainly due to their speeds and very affordable pricing.
Once you have your VPN registered and installed, the next step is to actually hop the geofence. All you have to do is launch the VPN app from your computer or mobile device. and select a server outside of the country. Once the connection is established you can open your browser and access LocalBitcoins (or any other blocked website in your country) as you normally would.
For those of you not using IPVanish, or another trusted provider, it’s important to keep in mind that data is expensive. For that reason, any company offering a seemingly “free” VPN service is likely pushing an agenda of their own. In most, (if not all) cases, free VPN providers are monitoring their users’ browsing habits as well as collecting piles of other information on their traffic.
If for some reason, you can’t afford to skip your daily latte and pay for a VPN, LocalBitcons recommends that you use TOR browser to access their service instead.