What is internet censorship

Internet censorship is a process of blocking, limiting, filtering or manipulating internet content in any way. It is a method of suppression used by the governments which control what can be accessed, published or viewed online.

Although censorship might seem like something done by oppressive governments, the scope of it has been increasing alarmingly in many democratic countries. More than 60 countries engage in some form of state-sponsored censorship.

Restrictions and manipulations vary from:

  • Limiting access to digital content (such as movies, series or music)
  • Blocking certain websites or services (Skype, Telegram, WhatsApp, Youtube, Netflix, etc.)
  • Filtering information perceived as unwanted (for instance, opposing the government in any way)

Who is usually affected by internet censorship?

Various attempts to tighten internet control and crack down on online freedom have a harmful impact on journalists, human rights activists, marginalized communities, as well as ordinary internet users, who want to access information or services online.

Technical methods of censoring the net

Usually, censor (in this case – the government) uses these following methods:

  • RST (reset) packet flooding – one of the most popular censorship techniques. When the connection between the IP address of your device and the destination IP is terminated.
  • SYN-ACK packets spoofing – when your connection is blocked with a fake RST (reset) packet.
  • IP address blocking – when you try to access certain websites, but receive a time-out warning. This method is often based on the destination IP.
  • Port blocking – when your communications are only allowed on specific ports.
  • DNS manipulation – when you are redirected to the address allowed by the censor.
  • Search engines result manipulation – when censors filter or block your search results.

To learn more about technical methods of internet censorship, press here.

What countries are the most active internet censors?

According to the Freedom House Index, in 2017 these countries had the highest level of internet censorship:

  • China
  • Syria
  • Ethiopia
  • Iran
  • Cuba
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vietnam
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Bahrain

While Estonia, Iceland, Canada, Germany, Australia, United States and Japan promote internet freedom.

Why do governments engage in various forms of internet censorship?

The intents vary. In can be done to spread the government’s views, particular agendas, and to stop government critics and various opposing views.

How to access the free and open internet

There are a few methods to surf the internet without borders. A VPN (virtual private network) is a robust tool to access free information online. Also, it is safe, because it hides your online activities from the censors.

Human rights vs. internet censorship

In 2016 a United Nations Human rights report declared that free expression is under assault as many governments worldwide limit their citizens the access to the internet. According to the UN experts, these governments treat “words as weapons” and attack criticism of government or government officials.

While wielding tools of censorship, these governments cover their actions as protecting public order, shielding citizens from offense and terrorism. However, most of such governments explicitly target political criticism, LGBT community members, journalists, artists, etc.

To learn more about human right vs. internet censorship, read here.

How does a VPN work

When you connect to the internet, your request goes through your Internet service provider (ISP), which redirects you to the website you intend to visit.

When you use a VPN, network traffic between your device and a VPN server is directed through a secure virtual encrypted tunnel, where sent and received data is encrypted.

When you use a VPN, neither Internet service providers (ISPs) nor third-party snoopers can spy on what you on the internet. Hence, all of your online activities (e. g. browsing history) are private and secure.

Moreover, VPNs have lists of countries, after you select one, you appear to be using the internet not from your actual location, but from the location of the virtual server.

How safe is VPN?

VPNs secure and protect your online identity. Most of the trusted VPN service providers use the latest encryption keys to hide your data from anyone trying to spy on your digital lifestyle.

If servers are not obfuscated, however, your ISP can see if you are using a VPN, but it cannot decipher the contents of your internet traffic. It means your ISP cannot see anything you do while you are connected.

How easy it is to set up and use a VPN

User experiences vary from provider to provider. Surfshark’s technologists engineered our VPN service so that everybody can use it absolutely hassle-free. In order to use Surfshark, simply follow these easy steps:

  1. Sign up for your Surfshark account and choose a pricing plan;
  2. Download and log in
  3. Choose a virtual location
  4. Enjoy internet freedom

Are VPNs legal

The legality of using a VPN depends on a country, but not every country in the world allows VPN service usage. In these countries you can get sentenced to prison if you are caught:

  • Belarus
  • China
  • Iraq
  • Oman
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates