Most people who live in democratic countries don’t live in fear of constant censorship. Sure, some countries block websites that exist solely for the distribution of illegal content, but those things are illegal with or without the internet. Law abiding people never think twice about these websites being blacklisted.
The problem comes into play when websites that are especially innocuous begin to disappear. This is something people expect in countries like Russia or China where the entire population is required to be locked into a single narrative. It’s not something you’d expect in countries that are generally regarded as the freest in the world.
Slowly but surely, these blocks are creeping up. Censored Planet, a tool used to track censorship and internet blocks around the world, brought some interesting findings to light. A team of researchers at the University of Michigan who used censored planet and reviewed the data from more than 200 countries found that the lands of the free aren’t quite as free as they used to be.
Censorship in Free Countries
Poland, India, Japan, Italy, Norway, and Israel have seen a noticeable increase in internet censorship. Not all of this censorship makes sense in terms of freedom. Among the most alarming findings are Poland’s interest in blocking websites that pertain to human rights. For whatever reason, the Polish government doesn’t want its citizens to understand how rights work in free countries.
India, a country in which homosexuality is highly stigmatized and rarely recognized, took the liberty of blocking dating sites that allow for same sex matches. This is an effort to deter gay people from dating in the country, where homosexuality was a crime until 2018 and transgender people were prevented from achieving legal gender changes until 2019. The politics say they’re slowly moving in the right direction, but the blocks are sabotaging their progressive politics.
Countries like Norway have taken a more modest approach in blocks, legally mandating that certain kinds of pornographic content and illegal gambling websites be blocked within the confines of the country. While this isn’t extraordinarily problematic on the government’s end, there are other aspects at play.
Internet service providers in these countries have their own scope of rules and capabilities outside of the government. Even if there isn’t an official mandate on paper that some websites should be blocked, the ISPs take it upon themselves to do it anyway. It’s unclear whether or not the governments are giving them official nudges, but it doesn’t seem to make sense that they would make these choices without prompting.
Internet service providers have been blocking human rights websites, news organizations, and dating websites for people of any and all orientations. Sometimes, these blocks are temporary. The coincide with important political events, times of unrest, or protests within the country. Sometimes they’re permanent, and without an official paper trail to explain the cause and purpose of the blocks, it can be impossible to tell if these websites will ever come back for users in many countries.
The United States Isn’t Far Behind
The United States doesn’t have very many internet blocks. They’re mostly utilized to prevent content that directly correlates to illegal activity from being easily accessible on the open internet. Despite the fact that the government has mostly had a gentle touch, the framework is still there.
Without net neutrality, internet service providers have the ability to block whatever websites they want. As we’ve seen with other countries, it seems to be relatively easy to facilitate an off the books arrangement between an ISP and a government to ascertain that certain content can’t be accessed.
Now that this is becoming a relatively frequent occurrence in democratic countries, people should become aware of their options. Maintaining your privacy on the internet and circumventing blocks is an unnecessary hassle just to read about human rights or meet someone wonderful on a dating website. But it’s the reality that many people face. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Avoiding Blocks in Your Country
TorGuard VPN allows users in any country to bypass blocks and censorship. Some blocks, like content blocks on streaming services like Netflix in certain countries, are an unnecessary hassle. TorGuard serves as a workaround for people who just want to live their lives. Do you want to watch movies? Do you want to go on a date this weekend? Do you want to read about rights in other countries, or have access to political reporting from other parts of the world? Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.
Our stealth VPN protocols make users appear to come from countries where the content isn’t blocked. It raises no red flags with internet service providers blocking VPNs and websites in countries where governments forbid access to free information. No one will know you’re using it. You can maintain anonymity online, reading and learning as much as you want to. Take control of your own freedom.