What do we mean by unblocking the Internet?
Internet restrictions and censorship are more common than you might think at first glance. On one hand, Internet shutdown and censorship refers to censorship of certain websites or services by governments with authoritarian tendencies, such as Nigeria’s blockage of Twitter since June 2021 by the national government. On the other hand, BBC’s iPlayer is a free VOD platform showcasing all of the BBC’s content, available only to users in the United Kingdom.
In this article, we’ll be touching on both the different types of online censorships carried out usually by governments against certain social media or news websites, and how to bypass such restrictions. In the second half, we’ll touch upon unblocking content restrictions and limitations based on user location and how to caveat around them.
Different Methods to Unblock the Internet
There are many different ways through which you can bypass internet censorships and restrictions. For something as simple as a paid news website that offers a limited number of free articles per month, you may use an inprivate browser or delete your cookie history. Instances such as bypassing government restricted websites or unblocking content limited through location tends to be a bit more complex.
Tor is an open-source and free browser that enables anonymous communication online. It was originally called The Onion Router (Tor) project, due to its “layers” of encryption. Tor uses a system originally developed by the US Navy to protect intelligence communications. It “bundles” your data into smaller, encrypted packets before it begins routing these through its vast network of nodes, which can be run by anyone for free.
A proxy server is any machine that acts as a firewall and web filter by encoding the traffic between networks and/protocols. Essentially it's a virtual computer with it’s own IP address that protects its user’s IP address and identity while providing shared network connections and a high level of privacy to their users. A good proxy service is one that protects its user and internet network from online threats while also ensuring high speed healthy connection.
VPN is an acronym for virtual private networks. By setting up a VPN on a device you are accessing the server from a different IP address. The ISP, the website, and any third parties can no longer associate your browsing with your physical address.
It helps achieve anonymity and privacy online by rerouting and encrypting your internet traffic. Essentially, VPNs bounce your internet activity across multiple IP addresses so that your location cannot be traced and your internet activity cannot be monitored by anyone, including hackers, governments, third-party browsers, and internet service providers.
Every device has an IP address. When you connect to the internet and access a webpage, two things happen:
1. Your client (usually a browser or an app) makes a “request” to the website’s server that hosts said page.
2. The server then green-lights the connection and sends the files to the client. The files include the web page itself (code and scripts), images, resources, and other assets.
In this process, the server and its components, as well as the internet service provider (ISP) that is providing the internet service, can both know and track where the request is originating from simply because they need the client's IP address to facilitate the transfer of information over the internet.
In many cases, a VPN service can provide a shorter pathway to connect to a destination server by connecting you directly to a server that’s physically closer to the destination – thus speeding things up. For the most part, however, these jumps always degrade the speed of your access and also the stability of your connection itself in many cases.
dVPNs are a peer to peer system, where you plug into a global network of servers run by people voluntarily. Servers around the world combine their traffic and communicate using a peer to peer network.
A traditional VPN works by routing your internet requests through various servers. This sometimes allows you to get a shorter connection to the destination content. But any company operating a paid VPN service can still log and even sell the data of which users browse which websites. Though many services claim to have a “strict no-logs policy”, there have been multiple news reports that suggest otherwise.
dVPNs offer increased efficiency (better speeds thanks to even shorter pathways between the client and the destination server) and security (thanks to no company being able to log your data).
How Does a VPN Work?
Every device you use connects to the internet with an IP address that can be used to trace your internet activity and traffic and poses a potential threat to data confidentiality. A VPN encrypts your unique IP address to protect against such risks.
A VPN application will run the background of your device, whether it be a mobile, tablet, computer or browser extension, while you access sites around the world.
VPNs work much like making your signal/request jump between multiple IP addresses. Companies that provide VPN services to users usually have thousands, if not more, of servers placed all over the globe. When you request a webpage using this VPN service, your connection request jumps from server to server until finally reaching the destination.
The VPN provider will keep you hidden and encrypt all of your data, directing all your traffic to a remote server owned or hired by them. You can usually choose from a list of servers located across the world, so you’re able to access the internet via a secure and private connection, and unblock your content based on where a website is located.
Even if a government agency tries very hard to ascertain the source of a request made through a multi-server jump, they will only be able to go a few steps behind. A good VPN service will make your connection jump between multiple servers to fully cloak the real IP address.
Internet Shutdowns and Censorships
In simple words, an internet shutdown involves intentionally disrupting or blocking internet access. They are also referred to as kill switches and blackouts. They can be done through throttling, when connectivity speeds are reduced to such a slow pace it’s almost impossible for pages to load. It’s also done by working with Internet Service Providers to cut off web access altogether.
Internet blackouts can occur at a localised or even national level, where an entire country has its telecommunications cut off. They are divided into two categories;
Partial Shutdown: The government limits access to specific websites or apps. A partial shutdown is done to prevent people from sharing information with others, typically via social media.
Total Shutdown: In a total shutdown, all internet services are entirely stopped, including mobile data services and broadband carriers. The internet is no longer functional, and people cannot get online via any device. In developing nations, where internet access is unreliable, people take some time to understand that an intentional intervention is taking place.
[You can read more in internet shutdowns here.]
Why are Internet Shutdowns Used?
Most governments around the world apply censorship in some way or another. But a total Internet shutdown has a more immediate and widespread effect.
Concerns for national security are the leading cause of internet shutdowns globally. But governments also claim that shutdowns are necessary to prevent the spread of misinformation and ensure public safety.
More often than not, internet shutdowns are a means to control the views and actions of people. They limit citizens’ ability to access information and express themselves freely. It means businesses are put on hold, students can’t study, and critical health services cannot be reached. Overall, the economy suffers and social life is disrupted.
Social media platforms are the most common targets of Internet shutdowns; usually in the form of the government’s restricted access to specific networks, Nigeria’s blockage of Twitter since June 2021 by the national government. However, businesses and schools are also motivated to restrict social media. Businesses may limit access to social media platforms while using its network in order to limit employee slack. Likewise, schools with strict electronic and Internet usage rules limit social media networks to prevent students from fooling around in class.
Authorities also limit news sources and websites to restrict online media and the spread of news from sources they do not approve of - whether it be founded allegations or government censorship. Website blocking is common across many countries following the Arab Spring, where authorities block certain websites and enforce censorship, often lacking actual evidence. For example, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are known to block sites funded by Qatar. Likewise, Egypt and Algeria have also blocked websites due to spreading “false news” allegations.
China is an example of one of the most comprehensive Internet shutdowns and censorship with its “Great Firewall” blocking all Meta-owned applications (Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram), Twitter, and even Google itself. Other countries with more conservative and authoritarian leaderships also prohibit access to pornography websites.
Using Mysterium VPN to Bypass Internet Shutdowns and Censorships
Mysterium VPN is a decentralized VPN. We reroute your internet activity, not through servers, but nodes offered up by our community members. Because all of this is done through residential IP addresses, it is much harder for connections to be discovered and shutdown.
Users with unused network traffic can sell their internet to the Mysterium marketplace as a node. Mysterium VPN users can then purchase these nodes to access the internet safely, privately, and anonymously.
Traditional VPNs run on centralized infrastructure, which means one point of failure. At Mysterium, we're decentralized; there is no central control point or anywhere to store your logs. As a result, we can’t track or keep logs of your traffic, even if we wanted to.
More key features of Mysterium VPN include:
Hide your IP address from everyone - even from us
No logs. No footprints. Mysterium VPN couldn't track your logs even if we wanted to. Protect your online activity through a truly secure decentralized VPN.
Connect from wherever you want to, to anywhere you want
Bypass all geo-blocks and regional restrictions by connecting with one of our 5000+ servers across 100 countries. Everything is now just one click away.
Pay-as-you-go in cryptocurrency
Mysterium VPN has no subscriptions and no monthly fees. Only pay per gigabyte of internet used and top up as you go.
Sports, Streaming and More: Unblocking Content Wherever You Are
Another reason for restricted content online has to do with location and licensing. No doubt one of the most annoying things is finding out that you cannot watch your favorite show, sports game, video clip, etc. due to your internet. With the increased popularity of streaming services, whether it be audio or visual, as opposed to cable and linear broadcast, the probability of you running into such a restriction is greater.
Spotify, Pandora, HBO, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, BritBox, Disney+, Hulu, and Netflix are just some of the many streaming platforms that limit the service they provide to their consumers based on geographic locations.
When talking about unrestricting content, although we think of tv shows, movies and streaming services first, the scope is much larger. For example, sports tournaments like the FIFA World Cup, NBA, the Olympics, and Formula 1 also differ in availability across borders. What may be streamed free in one country, might require a certain subscription to a broadcast network or cable service.
Why are Some Content and Streaming Websites Restricted?
The main reason lying behind why certain content and streaming services are restricted or not available in some countries has to do with strict legal requirements these services have to adhere to when distributing content in certain regions.
Streaming services are bound by specific legal restrictions such as licensing, trade agreements and copyright standards for each type of content they house in their inventory that limit certain foreign IP addresses from accessing that content.
For example, BBC and ITV’s joint streaming service BritBox is only available in the US, UK, Australia and South Africa. Most BBC content is available on Netflix for streamers in other countries. Likewise, the music streaming service Pandora is only available in the United States due to copyright and global radio operation laws.
Licensing is a big issue, especially in the world of sports tournaments, that limits access to your favorite matches and games. The International Olympic Committee, for example, sells limited broadcasting rights to the Olympics and Paralympics to specific broadcasters in countries around the world with only the right to broadcast within that country. That’s why you can access NBC’s Olympic clips and montages on YouTube if you’re in the US, but can only access the same content on the official Olympics YouTube channel.
As mentioned before, professional work environments and educational institutions also have motivations to limit the access of certain sites, such as Netflix and Hulu, on the respective ISP connections in order to increase productivity and present less distractions.
How a Mysterium VPN Unblocks Content
As mentioned above, Mysterium VPN directly assists you in unblocking content wherever your are.
We are a peer-to-peer network. This means that we reroute your internet activity, not through servers, but nodes offered up by our community members. Users with unused network traffic can sell their internet to the Mysterium marketplace as a node. Mysterium VPN users can then purchase these nodes to access the internet safely, privately, and anonymously.
By using active residential IPs to establish your connection, it is much harder for connections to be discovered and shutdown. Likewise, it’s that much easier for you to access your favorite content wherever you are.
In addition, Mysterium VPN prides itself on being a pay-as-you-go VPN with no contracts, subscriptions or locked-in costs. You only need to switch it on and pay for the minutes you plan on using. We also have an added layer of security through our pay in cryptocurrency option, where you can use digital money that’s as untraceable and uncensorable as your browsing habits.
How to Change Your Region on Netflix, Hulu and more
Unblocking global content with Mysterium VPN only involves three steps: download Mysterium VPN, choose your desired top-up payment method, and connect to a location of your choice. That’s all. Instant global entertainment and content at your fingertips.
Forget giant servers and third party businesses. Mysterium plugs you into a residential IP network, so it's the best VPN for streaming services such as Netflix, Disney +, Hulu and more.
Through our peer to peer (P2P) network, your streaming experience is always local and high quality. It's the fast, discreet and safe to change your connection region.
In addition, Mysterium VPN is more than just a Netflix proxy. We're powered by transparent technology with open source.
Unblocking Sports All Around the World
Sports tournaments and licensing agreements are given to paid television channels or streaming services in some countries, while in other countries they’re available for free through public/state broadcasters, YouTube, or sports club websites.
Using Mysterium VPN to change your connection IP address to a region with more favorable licensing agreements will allow you to never miss your favorite matches online wherever you are in the world.
Watch NBA Basketball, the Olympics, Champions League matches and more wherever you are in the world easily with Mysterium VPN in just a few minutes. All you have to do is: download Mysterium VPN, choose your desired top-up payment method, and connect to a location of your choice. That’s all. Instant access to your favorite matches and tournaments at your fingertips.
Unblocking All Content Wherever You Are
Television broadcasters and streaming services are not the only platforms that limit content based on geographic location, although they are the most popular. You may not notice it but many social media sites, such as Twitter, TikTok and YouTube also offer creators the option to limit content accessibility via geography.
When faced with a “the uploader has not made this video available in your country” video, using a VPN, namely Mysterium VPN, is your best bet to make sure you’re access isn’t restricted: download Mysterium VPN, choose your desired top-up payment method, and connect to a location of your choice.