Understanding and Circumventing Online Censorship

Understanding and Circumventing Online Censorship

Daniel Hall 16/01/2021 4
Understanding and Circumventing Online Censorship

INTRODUCTION

In 1993, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced its decision to put the World Wide Web into the public domain. Since then, the Internet has become an essential tool, helping many find jobs, make friends, and live their lives. But with such upsides come major drawbacks. Governments and corporations—corporations like Snapchat, Google, and Facebook—have had their own share of controversies regarding online censorship.

Why would these entities censor people on the Internet? Well, there are multiple factors at play. Some governments such as China’s find value in censoring citizens and limiting what citizens have access to through the power the government maintains—limiting knowledge makes it easier to stay in power.

Corporations may censor users to stay on the good side of advertisers and governments. Some topics may be deemed as too sensitive or explicit and could get the corporation in trouble, so they simply censor said topic.

Whatever the reason, there’s only one truth: every Internet user has a fundamental human right to voice their opinions and access the information they desire; Internet users should be allowed free speech and free access to information, no matter where or when.

Users should be aware of their fundamental rights to access the content they want and voice their opinions without the fear of censorship. But being aware of your rights as a citizen sadly isn’t enough for some governments and corporations. So, listed below are three ways you, as an Internet user, can circumvent attempted censorship.

3 CIRCUMVENTION TIPS FOR USERS 

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1. Using a VPN

Despite the mirage governments and corporations put up about their power, rarely can these entities fully limit what citizens can see and access. After all, the World Wide Web was built to be shared across the world—no one country has the keys to separate their country from it, even if some are trying.

However, they can create barriers preventing access to certain websites and content. Crossing these hurdles only requires a little time on your part. For one, you can look into a VPN download such as https://www.expressvpn.com/vpn-software.

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) route your connection data through VPN servers in the country of your choosing. From there, your data is encrypted and anonymized, meaning no government or corporation can obtain your data or read it. And yes, most major VPN providers do not store your data.

When choosing a VPN, be on the lookout for a few potential disadvantages. For example, “free” VPNs rarely work, and they may end up collecting your data and selling it. Certain countries have also criminalized the use of VPNs, though it's nearly impossible for governments to detect VPN users.

Reliable VPNs require payment, usually done through monthly/semi-monthly/annual subscription plans, but if you’re a victim of censorship, a few dollars a month goes a long way.

2. Using the Tor Browser

In 1995, the United States Naval Research Lab decided that the Internet's security at the time was lacking and was not suitable for military use. From there, three developers, Mike Reed, David Goldschlag, and Paul Syverson, started outlining what would eventually be known as “onion routing.”

Onion routing wouldn’t come to fruition until the early 2000’s, however. By then, the methods onion routing would use set in stone: data would travel from server to server, with each server adding extra encryption.

Nowadays, the people behind this onion routing belong to The Tor Project, and the software that uses onion routing is simply known as the Tor Browser.

The Tor Browser was and is a popular choice for Internet activists and victims of censorship. Thanks to how onion routing works, it’s impossible to limit what users on the Tor Browser can see and access.

Nothing is perfect, however, and Tor emphasizes that. While Tor works well against censorship, it is very slow. Something as simple as loading a 360p video could take minutes. And because of Tor’s unregulated nature, cybercriminals use Tor as a way to do business, with popular examples like The Scarlet Road being commonplace.

But Tor is free, both in the price of admission and how users can act. There are no restrictions in the Tor Browser, making it the perfect tool against censorship.

3. Changing Your DNS Provider and Using Encrypted DNS

The Domain Name System (DNS) works similarly to that of an address book or even a phone book. With it, websites are given names and URLs so users can type in the name of a website and not a string of numbers resembling an IP address.

But it’s not perfect. In fact, the security methods of DNS is outdated. For this reason, encrypted DNS has experienced a massive gain in popularity in recent years.

Encrypted DNS makes it so your searches, your queries, are safe and hidden, making it perfect to combat censorship. The only downside is that using encrypted DNS may mess with security regulations your ISP has in place, so they won’t know if your network is experiencing issues with security.

CONCLUSION

As more governments attempt online censorship, it is up to citizens to fight back against it, or at the very least work around it. With these three tools, you'll be able to access any content you want, no matter where you are.

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  • Gareth Law

    Freedom doesn't exit anymore, we can't say whatever we want.

  • Kim Miller

    Tor is a decent alternative for political activists

  • Paul Armstrong

    Governments are seizing Covid-19 and lockdowns to limit online speech and deploy new surveillance tools.

  • Gill Richardson

    Covid is accelerating society’s reliance on digital technologies at a time when the internet is becoming less and less free,

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Daniel Hall

Business Expert

Daniel Hall is an experienced digital marketer, author and world traveller. He spends a lot of his free time flipping through books and learning about a plethora of topics.

 

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