Censorship on the World Wide Web is becoming increasingly frequent. How does online censorship affect you? The answer is, that depends entirely on where you are located and how internet regulators apply censorship in your country or region. Some of us are fortunate, in that we can access the internet unhindered and browse through it, free like the wind. It is easy to forget this fact once you are enjoying the full-blown internet in an uncensored fashion. On the other hand, it is easy to forget that some areas of the world (or specific countries) are regulated so much that the experience is nothing of the sort compared to luckier folk. Sometimes, the entire population of a country will not have access to the simplest of internet functionalities we take for granted i.e. Google, YouTube, or any sort of social media. Even messaging apps like WhatsApp can be port-blocked by the government or regulatory bodies. Other times, censorship can extend to entire swathes of the internet being blocked off. Again, it highly depends on where you are, how internet regulators address things, and your country’s regime (if it can be classified as one).
However, advancements in privacy and cybersecurity technology have allowed those of us with limited (or practically non-existent) access to the functionalities of the internet to effectively bypass any censorship put in place by any authority. It is important to note that, before we begin, you avoid using these tricks if there are strict laws prohibiting you from bypassing online censorship. Perhaps, in that case, it would be wiser to move to another country completely.
What Exactly is Online Censorship?
Online censorship is the equivalent of real censorship (freedom of speech), only in that it concerns the blocking of certain services and functionalities on your internet connection in a given country or region. To put this into perspective with an internet censorship comparison between a few countries, statistics show that internet censorship differs wildly between Saudi Arabia, Russia, North Korea, and China. Most would consider all of these countries to be oppressive regimes, but how they process censorship online differs drastically.
In Saudi Arabia, certain websites are blocked for religious and political reasons, and bypassing this could mean a harsh penalty for the user. Meanwhile, in Russia, social media platform access is fine-tuned to prevent people from gathering independent news source data and criticizing their government. As for the extremes, such as North Korea and Myanmar, these countries run a completely different kind of internet which is severely limited and state-controlled. As far as China is concerned, it is akin to a much lighter version of the former, since the nation has globalized a lot more in recent years. Therefore, internet censorship rules can change as laws themselves change.
Censorship can take other forms, as well, and this is not just limited to oppressive regimes. Some countries are considered quite globalized and modern, but the government internet regulators will not allow you to view pornography as is the case in more ‘secular’ Islamic countries like Turkey. In other cases, you may be blocked from using Western media such as Google or YouTube, for instance. China, for example, has created an entire homegrown digital ecosystem (i.e. WeChat and WePay) for itself to distance its population from Western products and the perceived dominance of the West.
How to Bypass Online Censorship
Now that you know how online censorship works around the world, it is time to find out how you can safely bypass it in your specific location. Before you do that, check whether this process is illegal first. If this is a gray area and no precise laws exist, you should be fine using the following methods. If using any of the below methods will incur a penalty or direct physical harm, then you could consider moving to another country. Again, perhaps it is best to check this several times with experts in your area.
There are several methods to bypass censorship online. You can anonymously view the internet with a specialized browser such as Tor, use a proxy website, manually change your DNS server, use browser extensions, and more. However, some of the methods may not work all the time and may not also be stable. The only proper way to bypass all forms of online censorship is to use premium Virtual Private Network software or VPN. This cybersecurity software has the added benefit of anonymizing your internet protocol address, along with its encryption abilities, which means you will benefit from a two-pronged versatility.
Technically speaking, a VPN replaces your regular internet settings, ports, and other configurations with its own. This means that the provider you have chosen will encapsulate your internet traffic, encrypt it, and re-route it to a custom server belonging to the provider. This way, neither your identifiable internet address (your IP address that reveals your location) nor your internet traffic can be revealed or traced. This is exactly why some countries have banned the use of VPNs, simply because they work.
Whether you are a journalist, academic, online company owner, or just the average internet user, using the internet freely is your right (given that you do not conduct illegal activity). For this reason, internet freedom advocates today believe that everyone should freely use anonymization and encryption software such as a VPN.
Finally, remember that you need the best VPN you can get your hands on if you want full-blown unblocking ability. This means paying a monthly subscription to a well-known, premium VPN software provider. On another note, if your country or region blocks VPN provider websites, you can try a temporary workaround and download the VPN that way. Otherwise, configure your VPN while traveling in another country where VPN vendor websites are not censored. Remember to also use a good privacy browser that can delete your digital fingerprints and block cookies for even more peace of mind while browsing the internet with your premium VPN.