How to get around internet shutdowns in countries

Not just for communication, but also for financial management, education, and work, the internet has become an indispensable tool. The internet is without a doubt the most powerful weapon available today, since it is capable of even destabilizing a country.

The number of government-led internet shutdowns has increased in the past decade. Governments across the globe continue to limit or shut off internet access in an attempt to contain demonstrations, dissent, and criticism.

According to a statistics analysis released by Access Now, a non-profit organization that has been tracking shutdowns since 2016, the overall length of shutdowns increased by 49% in 2020. More precisely, 768 of the 850 international shutdowns reported during the previous decade occurred in the last five years.

Not only do the frequent shutdowns disrupt people’s everyday lives and economies, but they also deny them access to crucial information on Covid-19.

According to Fast Company, “recently extended shutdowns in Myanmar following a February military coup are estimated to have cost the economy $2.1 billion—and prevented people from learning about the coronavirus until months into the pandemic.” And, according to the study, individuals in Kashmir were unable to download contact tracking applications due to internet outages.

Health professionals are having difficulty accessing vital information in countries with limited internet access, according to Felicia Anthonio, the lead of Access Now’s anti-shutdown campaign #KeepItOn. At least one hospital in Indonesia was compelled to shut down momentarily due to an inability to access its information technology systems during an apparent shutdown.”

Egypt’s first nationwide internet blackout occurred in 2011, in reaction to demonstrations against then-President Hosni Mubarak. For almost a week, approximately 93 percent of Egyptian networks were banned. Earlier shutdowns and slowdowns of the internet occurred in Guinea in 2007 and Iran in 2009.

Asia and Africa are the regions most prone to shutdown events. Although governments argue that internet shutdowns are essential to combat the spread of disinformation, it has been observed that they are most often conducted around elections or periods of public unrest.

Marianne Daz Hernández, a Venezuelan lawyer and #KeepItOn Fellow, told The Verge that the increase in shutdowns is a reaction to the internet’s growing usefulness for organizing protests. “As more people use the internet, particularly social media, to document and criticize human rights violations, civil unrest, and other occurrences, some governments begin to view the internet as a threat that must be contained,” she explains.

According to a study by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association, internet shutdowns may violate international human rights law.

According to the Jigsaw study, governments typically impose internet access restrictions during times of upheaval, political instability, or elections.

However, how this is accomplished is not always apparent, since shutdowns take several shapes. A network outage may sometimes result in the limitation of access to popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, where users exchange information. In other instances, governments may restrict certain IP addresses or domain names or coerce telecom companies into completely blocking internet access. Additionally, they sometimes decrease connection speed to an absurdly low level, which may be erroneously attributed to technical difficulties.

The good news is that temporary limitations may often be circumvented by using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or proxy services.

What is the purpose of a VPN?

An active VPN secures your internet connection, enables you to remain anonymous while browsing the web, and enables you to access blocked websites. It provides you with a temporary IP address and conceals your actual one from others. In plain English, it allows you to visit websites that you would not usually have access to. Governments and other institutions, such as schools, colleges, and libraries, often restrict people’s access to certain websites. By sending your traffic via an encrypted tunnel, a VPN works as a website unblocker, ensuring that your browsing behavior cannot be monitored or controlled.

Why should I use a VPN?

VPNs encrypt your online activities and allow you to access websites that are banned in your region or by your academic institution, job, or public Wi-Fi. Do you want to spend your lunch break watching your favorite Netflix series? Do you want to be able to watch YouTube from any location? Do you want to maintain contact with Facebook and Instagram pals from all around the world? A VPN is the ultimate key to your online security. When you connect to one of your VPN provider’s many worldwide servers, you’ll be able to surf the web using a new IP address and get access to websites that would otherwise be blocked.

When connected to NordVPN, you may access the following features:

  • view restricted content using a standard internet connection
  • if you want to circumvent ISP-configured blocks
  • and access all websites and services while traveling
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