Proton supports freedom in Belarus

Image of Belarus and ProtonMail flags

Belarusians are in the streets, no longer willing to live under the tyranny of “Europe’s last dictator.” We at Proton stand with the people of Belarus against the violent suppression of their freedoms, and we would like to once again offer our support to any independent groups fighting for democracy on the ground.

The Aug. 9 presidential election coincided with a nationwide Internet blackout, and elections observers say the outcome was once again rigged to favor President Alexander Lukashenko.

Now, Lukashenko is trying to suppress the largest protests in the country’s history with police brutality. Attacks and detentions of journalists are increasing, with the Belarusian Journalists Association chronicling those incidents.

We have long been strong supporters of freedom in Belarus. Back in 2018, we funded Charter’97, an independent news outlet that has been the target of attacks by the government. Above all, we believe privacy and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights, and expanding access to these rights is at the core of our mission.

Why we are taking a stand in Belarus

Over the years, we have become increasingly active in raising awareness about threats to freedom around the world, from the United States to Hong Kong to the Big Tech monopolies that affect us all. As a tech company whose mission is to increase privacy globally, we feel it is our responsibility to speak out and leverage our community in support of a universal right to privacy, security, and freedom.

We are very familiar with the Lukashenko regime because we have been directly targeted by it with censorship. In November 2019, the Belarusian government blocked Proton servers for several days. It was thanks in part to public pressure that the government lifted the senseless block. Public pressure is again helping to make a change on a much larger scale. 

We have many users in Belarus, and they too are speaking out. For example, we are proud to provide private email to the team at Charter’97, which we supported through our 2018 Lifetime Account charity auction. At the time, we spoke with the organization’s editor, Natalya Radina, who was living in exile in Poland because of the constant death threats she received.

“I was arrested in the Charter’97 office while I was writing about the brutal force used against our peaceful demonstration,” she said. “All the journalists and volunteers who were in the office were also arrested. All of them were put in prison for 15 days, where they were pressured and intimidated.”

Belarus is crying out for freedom from this oppression, and Proton stands in solidarity with peaceful protesters to offer any assistance we can.

How tech can promote freedom under authoritarian regimes

Technology companies have a vital role to play in preserving the Internet as a platform for free expression. When government becomes hostile to freedom, encryption technologies can help facilitate private communication that keeps activists and journalists safe to do their work.

As Radina told us, “Belarusians are actively using VPNs, Tor, and anonymizers to bypass the blocking of Charter97.org … which is proof that Belarusians don’t believe in the propaganda of the dictator and want to get free information.”

At Proton, we are building an ecosystem of privacy-focused tools that empower people to take control of their data, making individuals less vulnerable to online surveillance and manipulation.

With ProtonMail, you can easily send encrypted emails to anyone. The encryption happens automatically, and no one can access your messages, not even us. With ProtonVPN, you can connect to any one of hundreds of servers around the world, enabling you to unblock censored content and bypass network-level surveillance. We are also developing ProtonCalendar and ProtonDrive, end-to-end encrypted tools that will help you keep your events and files private in the cloud.

Because privacy is a right, these tools are free. Proton services are funded by users who choose to upgrade for additional features, such as extra email storage or access to more servers or movie streaming services. 

While all our plans offer the same strong encryption, paid accounts benefit from advanced security features, such as Secure Core and Encrypted Contacts. We developed these types of features with activists, journalists, and other high-risk fields in mind.

Therefore, if you are in Belarus and in need of advanced encryption services, please reach out to us at advocacy@protonmail.com. We are also able to offer direct financial support to accredited organizations that are making a concrete impact. 

After nearly three decades of often violent repression and censorship, Belarus has said “enough.” As a company with many Belarusian users and which has financially supported independent Belarusian journalists in the past, we once again stand in support of freedom and democracy.

These activities are at the core of our mission: We believe we have a responsibility not only to create good products but also to help create the kind of world we would like to live in. 

You can get a free secure email account from ProtonMail here.

We also provide a free VPN service to protect your privacy.

ProtonMail and ProtonVPN are funded by community contributions. If you would like to support our development efforts, you can upgrade to a paid plan. Thank you for your support.

About the Author

Ben Wolford

Ben Wolford is a writer at Proton. A journalist for many years, Ben joined Proton to help lead the fight for data privacy.

 

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13 comments on “Proton supports freedom in Belarus

  • It is political activism like this that puts off people who value privacy. There is no humanitarian crisis in Belarus as there is no humanitarian crisis in Hong Kong. It is all foreign interference into the domestic affairs of sovereign nations. How can ProtonMail respect the privacy of individuals when it cannot even respect the sovereignty of nations?

    Reply
    • Hi Tim,

      Thanks for your feedback. The objective was not to involve ourselves in the politics of other countries. Rather, we wanted to uphold the importance of privacy and freedom of speech for all.

      Thanks

      Reply
  • Ben,

    Please. “We always take a neutral position on political issues” is a bold-faced lie–just look at that recent TikTok article (comments disabled). There is absolutely no semblance of any attempt at neutrality in the article, nor related articles published on the ProtonMail Blog. Speaking of: look, an article on the NATO-backed color revolution in Belarus! Here, you incorrectly imply Charter97 is an “independent” organization even though they are directly funded by Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs since at least early 2018. Charter97 is also currently based in CIA Black Site-hosting Poland.

    I understand you and others at Proton Technologies AG have ties to the Human Rights Industry, but you really should not be misusing and politicizing this platform to advance that interest. It erodes the credibility and hence value of your product. It makes me personally think there could be some spooky things going on behind the doors at your organization, and discourages me from ever trusting a Proton product.

    Reply
    • Hi

      Thanks for your feedback. The objective was not to involve ourselves in the politics of other countries. Rather, we wanted to uphold the importance of privacy and freedom of speech for all.

      Reply
  • I like these articles. I think it is important to at least voice our concerns about the situation in Belarus and Hong Kong. And it is important for me to know where the ProtonMail (and other companies) stand on these issues so I can decide whether I trust them and support them.

    Reply
  • Please, stay out of political commentaries. What happened with the unspoken rule that “business is for making profit”? Now almost every business involves itself in political activism and commentaries, and it’s becoming unbearable. Don’t comment on politics, focus on providing a product. We the people are fed up, of self-righteous, un-elected dead legal entities known as corporations, trying the lecture the public on moral and political topics. You have no mandate to do it. Corporations should have no voice in public debates, and to be quite honest, should be fined severely for political activism. This should be made international law.

    Reply
  • Thanks, Ben, for the article and for raising the concern about the situation in Belarus. I can say for sure that support and solidarity are welcomed and appreciated by Belarusians on the matter.

    Several people above criticizing the topic are most likely not from Belarus and don’t know anything about the situation and what’s really going on there.

    Reply
  • When a baby cot’s price is inflated by 5600% in my country by greedy government officials and no names are mentioned can we say my country is doing well. Yet foreign donors continue to pour dollars into the government coffers including World Bank, IFC and several others. The banks don’t seem to care and don’t raise any red flags when millions get deposited into shady accounts. I believe the entire earth is run by a clique of greedy elite whose only job is to stay in power and fill their pockets. The rest of humankind are merely glorified ‘slaves’ who work for peanuts and struggle to earn more and more but never enough because the top guys ensure wages and remuneration is tightly controlled to keep people enslaved. I believe the current turmoil we are witnessing in many countries all over the world is due to people’s eyes being opened partly thanks to Covid which has highlighted the gap between the super rich and the not so rich who have been reduced almost to poverty.

    Reply
  • On your main webpage you claim to be “Swiss neutral”. That’s exactly what you are doing, not being neutral at all but claiming to be neutral exactly like Switzerland. Similar to other people commenting here, I share serious concerns on your understanding of neutrality. Standing up for freedom of speech and privacy can be considered as netural actions. Calling Lukashenko a dictator and supporting fights is rather not neutral. Also, freedom can be achieved in different ways, and your post implies that freedom has to be achieved by “the one way” you think it should be achieved and this is again not a neutral position. Please don’t understand me wrong, I am on your side, but you can not advertise ProtonMail as neutral by taking this position. Also, you haven’t been neutral in other issues, e.g. your EpicGames statement. Clearly, they were breaking the laws, although they were doing it a RobinHood manner. However, they still broke the law, and by your post, you may are not encouraging such actions, but you are tolerating unlawful behaviour which again is NOT NEUTRAL.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comments. I can see where you’re coming from. As a fundamental principle, we believe everyone should have access to privacy and freedom online. Our position is to remain politically neutral without shying away from our beliefs.

      Reply
  • Lukashenko turned down 1 billion USD from the western Big Banks. That is what LEADERSHIP is. Yet ProtonMail claims to be neutral.

    Reply