Internet censorship is common around the world. Although numerous regions block the content that web users can see, many people use a VPN service or a cloud service to regain access to materials and websites deemed sensitive or inappropriate by certain governments. People traveling will often want to use a VPN or similar so that they do not break the laws of any countries they are visiting.

USA Today covered some of the top countries in terms of web censorship in February 2014, as elaborated in a report issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ):

  • North Korea – The North Korean government runs every website that can be legally accessed, so essentially the Internet is another arm of the nation’s propaganda wing. Even so, only 1 in every 25 people can get online.
  • Burma – Email communication is strictly monitored. Users are blocked from any sites that post human rights information or state opposition to the country’s leadership.
  • Cuba – You can only get online by going to centers run by the state. All web access is controlled by blocking IPs, censoring keywords, and monitoring user activity to prevent an open political discourse. It is unlawful for anyone to post anything online that is critical of the Cuban government.
  • Saudi Arabia – Almost half a million websites are inaccessible, according to the CPJ. You specifically can’t view any web content that promotes or discusses cultural, societal, or spiritual subjects that are at odds with the Islamic perspective of the royal family.
  • Iran – To express yourself online, you first must become licensed through the Ministry of Art and Culture. Anyone who expresses sentiments that are in opposition to the mullahs in power are often threatened and imprisoned.
  • China – Although many US household products now say, “Made in China,” differences in the American and Chinese legal landscapes are apparent with web control. China has more strict and extensive censorship than any other nation, per CPJ analysis. Search filtration is used, as is direct removal of access to some websites. Any material the government determines is unsavory is deleted from state-controlled sites. One way China’s censorship is blatant is that any queries for content on Taiwanese independence or the violent events of Tiananmen Square are forwarded to sites promoting the regime.
  • Syria – Anyone who blogs in a manner that might imperil the interests of the country’s leadership is criminalized. Internet cafés collect picture IDs and save usage information on all customers, which is then provided to government agents.
  • Tunisia – Internet service providers (ISPs) are instructed to send data on the IPs and identifying characteristics of anyone who posts online. Anyone using the web must access it through a government hub. The state monitors and controls everything posted on the web and reads any email, as desired.
  • Vietnam – Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and other companies that run blog hosting sites must supply the government with information on anyone posting into their environments. Any content is rendered inaccessible that is unfriendly to the government or that promotes democratic ideals, civil liberties, or separation of church and state.
  • Turkmenistan – The government of this country doesn’t bother to set rules for ISPs. Instead, it is the only ISP. Users cannot get to various websites. Any users of email through Gmail, Hotmail, and other free services are checked for anti-government content.

Beyond the countries listed in USA Today, Turkey has proven itself particularly incompatible with the Open Internet in 2014. According to the nonprofit Human Rights Watch, Turkey blocked specific content on YouTube and Twitter earlier this year. Following those two blockages, two anti-Internet measures were passed by parliament on September 10 and signed into law on September 12 by President Erdogan. The first law would allow the regulatory body that controls the Internet, the Telecom Directorate (TIB), to shut down sites at will, with only four hours’ notice. The second gives the government access to a broader range of metadata on users to bolster its surveillance tactics.

Sidestepping censorship with VPN & cloud servers

For many people outside the United States, an American-based VPN is attractive because there is no overarching government censorship. It is an accepted belief that American citizens should have open access to the web. However, some users are not sure they want to use networks located in the United States due to eavesdropping from the National Security Administration (NSA), as exposed by the Edward Snowden case. (Notably, Atlantic.Net offers virtual server access in both the United States and Canada.)

More and more people want to access the Internet through a virtual machine that protects their security and privacy so that they can remain anonymous. For some users, they simply want to stream a broader range of Netflix films. Netflix offers different movies in different nations, and using other locations gives users access to the Internet experience of various regions.

The two tactics used by those interested in accessing the Internet through proxies in different locations are the creation of VPNs and the use of cloud servers. The latter option is typically based on Windows cloud server hosting or Linux VPS hosting, which is available through Atlantic.Net. Get started now. It only takes 30 seconds.

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>>> Part 2 – Cloud Servers and VPN Setup