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Internet Censorship: What Is It, Can You Bypass It?

Posted by Robert on 17 Apr, 2022

It is no longer news that the governments, ISPs, corporate organizations, and various agencies in some countries monitor what happens on the internet and are working to control it.

If this should happen, the internet is far from becoming a tool for free and open expression.

Thankfully, there's a technology that can help fight it back. This article explains all you need to know about internet censorship, why it is in place, and how you can defeat it with a VPN.

What is internet censorship?

Internet or online censorship is an effort to totally or partially control or suppress what can be accessed, viewed, or published on the internet.

It's essential to keep in mind that Internet censorship has its advantages when used with the best of intentions. For instance, it can be decreed to stop fake news or restrict access to harmful activities.

However, in the context of this article, we are focusing on internet censorship at the government and ISP levels due to how it affects a large number of people.

What can be censored?

What is being censored mostly depends on who (government, ISP, organizations, and even yourself) is applying the censorship. For example, you can control what your child can do on the phone while using the internet. Your office WiFi administrator might restrict you from using torrenting services. Elsewhere, your ISP might censor certain websites, blocking access to it for some reasons.

Other common targets for censorship from the national and ISP level include restricting access to social media platforms and messaging apps (like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram, and more). They can also block access to some websites, such that users living in the host country of censorship are technically unable to open the sites with their browsers.

How is internet censorship being implemented?

IP address blocking

In some countries, the government has control over internet services. They can backlist specific IP addresses such that websites on the same shared server are also affected. IP address blocking is a common strategy used for blocking on an ad-hoc basis or by region, generally known as geo-location or geo-blocking.

Thus, when you try to access the sites, your request is denied by the IP address associated with the websites.

Domain Name System (DNS) Tampering

Your DNS, in some way, works in tandem with your ISP. By default, DNS queries are resolved by DNS servers operated by your ISP. Therefore, the authorities can deregister a domain name that hosts contents they do not like. It then becomes impossible for your ISP to resolve any requests from the DNS hosting any government-restricted content. Once this happens, the website becomes invisible to users' browsers who are trying to access it.

Deep Packet filtering

Packet filtering is one of the newest and most advanced methods of censorship. When data is sent over the internet, it is grouped into smaller units called packets. This strategy then works by inspecting the metadata of packets between servers by scanning the actual content of each web page. In this way, authorities can block or re-route web traffic based on what they feel should be forbidden.

Keyword filtering

Most internet users use keywords on search engines to access specific information. The government can decide to filter out objectionable content. To succeed, the authorities would have to rely on the cooperation of search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and more, to remove censored keywords.

Other forms of censoring strategies

Governments or corporations can utilize other techniques to block unwanted content. Traffic shaping is an example. This method is used to delay certain websites from being accessible. Users that want to join these sites can easily assume that the sites are excessively slow or unreliable. Peer-to-peer file sharing is often targeted to clamp down on illegal copyrighted content sharing.

In some countries like China, the government can require that individuals install software on personal computers that help filter internet contents. The software can be updated to include a regular list of banned sites.

Organizations also use a technique to restrict their employers from certain behaviors or accessing certain content while using a work computer. They achieve this by blocking their employees' individual port numbers.

Defeat internet censorship with VPN

Using a VPN is the best way to bypass online censorship. A VPN creates a virtual and encrypted tunnel linking your device to the VPN server.

Once your device is connected to a VPN, all internet traffic, including your DNS queries, is routed through the VPN server. This prevents your ISP from tracking any website activities to you.

VPNIFY is a reliable VPN service that can prevent your ISP from seeing the web pages you have visited. That means it can't filter packets and prevents it from applying any blocks. You can defeat geo-blocked content by connecting to our servers outside your host country, where censorship applies to another country where the content is not blocked.


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