You’ve arrived here probably because you saw this post on social media. We use social media for several reasons. Apart from using it to connect with friends, families and groups, we also use it to disseminate information and keep tabs with what’s happening around the world.
Have you ever imagined how it will be like if the government blocks access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or WhatApp?
In 2016 alone, there were 56 documented shutdowns recorded globally, involving at least 11 governments in Africa including Zimbabwe and Sudan. You can remember the hot debate during the 2016 elections on whether mainstream social media should be blocked in Ghana until when the elections were over. Well, it turned out social media played a very important role during the elections. In 2017, besides intensified surveillance and monitoring of social media activities, there are still threats of internet blackouts worldwide.
Image Credit: https://www.accessnow.org/keepiton/
Governments which block their citizens’ access to social media, usually do this because of political events, unrests and attacks, using a barrage of excuses as to why platforms like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and YouTube should not be used. A country like North Korea, have successfully created their own tightly-regulated intranet which isn’t connected to the rest of the world, to prevent access to any other communications that have not been provided by the government . China is probably the most notable country as far as blocking websites and social platforms with “The Great Firewall”. Though some countries do this to promote their homegrown media platforms or stopping students from cheating in exams, most countries do this to prevent protesters from collaborating and telling the world what’s really going on in their countries. Here are well known countries and the services they’ve blocked for years.
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How Governments Block Internet Access
Some countries have every internet traffic routed through a single place. This makes it easier for them to block access to websites and services or the entire internet at will. In decentralized situations, governments usually direct telecommunication companies to block access to websites or completely shut down the internet.
Getting Online When Social Media Get Shut Down
There are 3 main ways to get pass the social media killswitch. Except for North Korea, you can bypass social media bans through:
- Proxy Servers
Certain networks also allow you to tweet using SMS, which is also a decent bypass.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are very powerful applications that are used to evade censorship and get access to the internet anonymously. They are used by many people worldwide to get secure tunnel to remote servers on the internet. Countries with restricted internet access actually have the highest downloads of VPN application. VPN applications can work on smartphones, computers and browsers based on the developer. A VPN software may work or not based on your location. Here are my favourite picks.
- SurfEasy: Gives you 13 different regions to choose from including UK, Brazil and Norway. You can SurfEasy VPN to bypass social media restrictions in China, Turkey and more. It works on Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad or Android.
- TunnelBear: This is my favourite VPN application. You can choose from 20 countries to mask you from your government. You get 500MB free every month and 1GB more when you make a promotion tweet. TunnelBear works on iPhone & iPad, Android, Mac, Windows, and in your browser.
- UltraSurf: I used this application during my first year in college to bypass torrent restrictions set by the school. It should get you past social media restrictions too. It was developed by Chinese residents so it’s definitely going to work in China. UltraSurf works on Windows.
Proxies works like VPNs. As the name suggests, proxies are more of computers located in remote places which allow you to access the internet through them. I find them less secure but are very good proxy services. If you have a friend in another country with unrestricted internet access, you can learn how to use their computer as a proxy. Psiphon, is a powerful open source web proxy that helps you skirt filtering systems. You should check out Proxy Checker and Free Proxy Lists too.
Unlike VPNs, proxies can be web-based, which means you can access restricted websites from proxy websites. Proxies can also come in form IPs which you provide to your browser or OS.
The most popular anonymous browser is Tor. Tor is browser which prevents people or the government from tracking your location or your browsing activity. When browsing with Tor, all your traffic is routed through the Tor network, where a number of encrypted routes shield you to prevent anyone from telling what you’re doing online. Over 2 million people use the Tor service daily. Some governments are investing millions into cracking down the Tor network, but that’s not going to be successful anytime soon. Tor works on Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X, Linux and Smartphones.
If you’re using Google Chrome, Safari, Opera, FireFox or any other browser which supports browser extensions and plugins, you can check the browser’s app store and search the term “VPN”. You’ll find so many VPNs and proxy softwares you can install and use right within your browser.
What are your thoughts on internet censorship? Are there any other ways to bypass restricted restricted social media? #keepiton