The internet has become an essential part of many people’s lives worldwide. However, depending on where you live, you may or may not have access to specific websites. Internet censorship, or regulation of internet use, is common in many nations across the world. The government, employer, or internet service provider could require it.
As we pose critical questions regarding internet censorship, let us first understand what it looks like worldwide, how it impacts daily users, and potential techniques people use to circumvent it, such as VPNs.
What is internet censorship?
Simply put, internet censorship restricts or prohibits what content can be published, communicated, or accessed via the internet. This can be done on a smaller basis, such as a workplace network, or by the government nationally.
Internet censorship is, thankfully, something we can get around. For example, residents can use an India VPN to avoid social media suppression in India.
When you browse the internet, you may encounter censorship at multiple points. When you attempt to view a website, your internet traffic is handled by your:
- Device (for example, your smartphone, work laptop, etc.)
- Local network (for example, your home WiFi, work WiFi, etc.)
- Internet service provider (ISP) preferred search engine
This is not an exhaustive list of all the places where censorship can be used, but it represents the most prevalent examples governments impose.
What does internet censorship look like?
As misinformation and foreign meddling with social media have become hot-button concerns, internet censorship has risen to the top of debates over free expression. We see it in places like India, where the government has moved to suppress TikTok and other mobile apps.
Examples of censorship
Censorship can take many forms and can be applied temporarily or permanently on the internet. Here are a few examples of various types and levels of censorship across the world.
The Great Firewall of China, built in the mid-2000s, prevents access to thousands of Western websites. Since 2019, it has significantly increased its censorship, barring all language versions of Wikipedia. The Chinese government also maintains strict control over its domestic internet, quickly deleting posts disparaging the Chinese Communist Party.
Iran’s internet restriction has evolved. The government restricted a substantial number of websites in 2012, and during the 2017-2018 protests against the government over rising food prices, internet access to mobile devices, including social media sites like Instagram, was blocked. There was a total internet shutdown in 2019 due to protests over fuel prices and several more shutdowns in 2022.
Since North Korea is extensively restricted, it is unsurprising that the usage of VPNs is outright prohibited. The authoritarian state strictly limits internet access, with only a few high-level officials in the Workers’ Party of Korea having full worldwide internet access. Some university students may also have restricted access, but all sites are highly monitored and blocked.
How to avoid censorship
Whether you are being censored at work or by your country, you can employ a few workarounds to achieve more internet freedom. Some are free, and some are charged, but all will simply take a few minutes to set up and will dramatically improve your censorship protection.
VPNs are Virtual Private Networks that you can connect to to encrypt your website visits and device IP addresses. You can circumvent website limits by disguising your web activity in a tunnel.
Proxy servers, like VPNs, hide IP addresses, allowing users greater online freedom.
Secured browsers, such as Tor, perform a similar function as VPNs in that they disguise your IP address and delete cookies as soon as you close website tabs. Your entire session will be encrypted three times, ensuring your safety even if you visit banned websites.
On a related note, private browsing is not the same as using a VPN. Many individuals believe that using Incognito Mode or Private Browsing will automatically clear their browsing history; however, this is not the case. While the data will be destroyed locally, your ISP can still observe your online actions if no other security measures are in place, such as a VPN. While Incognito Mode is useful for hiding your web activities from those with whom you share devices, it is not a viable option for those who seek privacy from their ISP.
Censorship of the internet is widespread around the world. Governments may restrict access for their citizens, guardians may limit access to harmful content, and corporations may stop employees from accessing social media and other sites while on the job. In certain circumstances, internet filtering serves a purpose, such as preventing bogus news and reducing cybersecurity dangers.
However, it could be used to limit access as a control. If you wish to bypass the censorship, make sure to use a reliable VPN.
Also Read More: How to Cancel or Switch Your Current Internet Service Provider?