VPNs and free speech are a match made in heaven, like peanut butter and jelly. However, there are some countries that prefer to have their sandwiches without any filling and don’t like when their citizens complain about it. Some governments try to oppress the opinion of their people, going so far as to ban VPN use among its citizens. Of course, they very rarely announce that VPNs are illegal to avoid drawing public attention to these loopholes, and instead secretly sever the connection. This prohibition is done either by forcing ISPs to close tunneling protocols that are used by virtual private networks or by simply blocking all access to foreign sites, preventing people from visiting the company’s website in the first place.
Being the most vocal advocate of internet censorship and creator of the dreaded Great Firewall, it comes as no surprise that China sees VPNs as a natural enemy. For some time it was only the Great Firewall interfered with the connection of foreign VPN providers as the algorithm learned and adapted to spotting shared IPs. In 2017, the government stepped up its game and ordered internet service providers to block individual VPN use altogether. Following the regulation, setting up such a connection carries a hefty fine.
The VPN situation in Russia is rather intriguing. On one hand, the government signed a bill banning the practice altogether and instructing both ISPs and the Federal Security Service to stop people from ‘spreading extremist materials’. Considering just how monumental this task is, the regulation is still waiting to take full effect. As of now, however, connecting to a VPN is fine so long as you don’t use it to visit forbidden websites or leak sensitive information. Still, it’s undetermined whether or not it’s okay to have a VPN to access other services that are also banned, such as Telegram.
Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, typically dislike the idea of their citizens sharing information that would make the government look bad in the eyes of the world. Some of these countries – such as Egypt – even shut down internet access during the Arab Summer. However, Iran doesn’t ban VPNs outright and instead sees them as an opportunity to further extend its surveillance. Citizens of the country are free to access any VPN provider approved by the officials, which likely means the user data of these services are not secure and likely would be made available during a police investigation.
Uganda is the latest country to hang up the ‘wanted’ poster for VPN use. Interestingly, the African nation has very little interest in filtering internet content and instead plans to profit on people’s Facebook use by introducing a social media tax. Naturally, people decided to pay for a VPN service instead of hand their money to the government, which lead to Godfrey Mutabazi’s infamous Facebook post in which the executive president of the Uganda Communication Commission publicly condemned VPN use and subtly threatened citizens by claiming that the government “has the technology to block it”.
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