The Internet is Not Free – Censorship Restricts Our Access to Information
‘Censorship, the changing or the suppression or prohibition of speech or writing that is deemed subversive of the common good. It occurs in all manifestations of authority to some degree, but it has been of special importance in its relation to government and the rule of law in modern times.‘
The Internet is a powerful tool that we often take for granted. We use the web to communicate with friends and family, stay up-to-date on the news, find answers to our questions, and discover more about the places we want to visit. But what happens when the government censors the Internet?
Censorship is the suppression of information available to the public at large. It is the government’s way of defining the narrative and directing specific information flow. In some cases, censorship protects people from harmful or dangerous information. In other cases, censorship controls the population and keeps them in line.
There are a handful of countries that actively censor content, including the following: China, Iran, Russia, North Korea, Syria, Belarus, UAE, etc. For a comprehensive list of countries that censor the Internet, visit OpenNet Initiative. If you’re thinking of traveling to a country that censors the Internet, it’s important to take precautions before you go. Check what’s going on ahead of time, to ensure that you’re well prepared.
Fight Back by Actively Using All the Tools & Resources at Your Disposal
Remember, no one is immune to censorship. It can happen to anyone, anywhere in the world. And it can happen pretty much without warning. If you’re traveling abroad, it’s important to be aware of the censorship laws in the country you’re visiting. And if you should find yourself in a situation where internet censorship exists, here are some things you can do to stay connected:
1. Use a VPN
A VPN, (virtual private network), is a resource that we can use to bypass censorship and access blocked websites. It creates a secure connection via an encrypted tunnel between your device and a server. The server could be anywhere in the world. VPNs make it easy for you to anonymously surf the web without restrictions. There are several high-quality VPNs available, both free and paid.
While it is tempting to use a free VPN, paid subscriptions are the wise alternative. You can download and install a VPN for PC, iPhone, or iPad – it’s your choice. Your specific VPN choice depends on several factors, namely:
- Your budget
- The country or territory where the VPN is registered and licensed
- Whether or not the VPN has a no-logs policy
- Customer reviews of the VPN service in question
2. Use a Proxy Server
Proxy servers are another ingenious way to bypass censorship and access blocked websites abroad. Proxies work by routing your traffic through a server located in a different country, allowing you to access blocked websites in your current location. Proxy servers are free and easy to use. However, they can be slow and unreliable. For this reason, they are not necessarily the first choice for users.
3. The Onion Router – a.k.a. Tor
Tor is free open-source software that allows you to surf the Internet anonymously. It works by routing your traffic through a series of volunteer-run servers, making it extremely difficult for anyone to track your online activity. While Tor effectively hides your identity, it can also be incredibly slow and unreliable. It’s not the most user-friendly browser, but it is highly effective.
4. Social Media Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Parler, or TikTok
If you are traveling to a country or region where the Internet is censored and can’t access your favorite sites, you can use a social media platform to stay connected. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Parler, or TikTok are blocked in some countries but are still easily accessible through a high-quality VPN or proxy server.
Social media platforms are a useful means of staying connected with friends and family and getting real-time information about the places you’re visiting. However, be advised that the government may filter and control the info you see on social media. To get an accurate picture of things, try to find alternative sources of information.
News outlets can also be a useful source of information, but be aware that the authorities may also censor them. Try to find news outlets based outside the country you’re visiting. They may not have the same degree of censorship as local news outlets. Perhaps the best way to ensure that you’re getting access to balanced information is to sample multiple sources while traveling.