According to recent data, about 4.66 billion people use the internet today. That’s almost 60% of the global population. For all of us, it’s a source of information, news, entertainment, and a social interaction tool. Unfortunately, many countries prevent their citizens from equal and unrestricted access to information.
Many experts say our online freedoms are more endangered than ever, with current restrictions and pending laws that could make things even worse. Most countries ban the usual suspects – torrents, pornography, social networks, political media, and messaging apps. Here’s a quick overview of the current state of internet censorship.
Which Countries Increased Internet Censorship in 2021?
Three countries increased certain aspects of internet access in the past year. Thailand and Guinea introduced tighter political media restrictions across different websites and social networks. Greece also acted against torrenting and political media, significantly reducing press freedom during 2020 and 2021.
Internet Censorship in Europe
Last year saw 18 countries banning and shutting down torrent websites. A number of them introduced limiting measures without fully blocking P2P data exchange – Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, and others. Torrent sites are also often blocked in Spain, although there are no restrictions on legal torrenting. Ukraine restricts access to online pornography, while Turkey and Belarus fully block this type of content.
Political media is currently restricted in 12 countries. Greece joined the list in 2021, along with Kosovo and Hungary. The two countries that censor political media the most are Turkey and Belarus. No European country limits social media access at the moment, but five have heavy restrictions for their citizens (Ukraine, Turkey, Spain, Montenegro, and Belarus). VoIP and messaging apps are not restricted anywhere in Europe at the moment.
Internet Censorship in the Americas
Cuba is currently the only country that restricts pornography, political media, and VPN usage. Canada, Mexico, and the USA have banned torrenting sites or shut them down. While the United States saw an improvement in political media restrictions, that’s not the case for six other countries (Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador). Belize, Mexico, and Cuba are restricting messaging and VoIP apps.
As for South America, Argentina is the only country currently blocking torrent sites, and only Venezuela blocks access to online pornography. Political media is presently restricted in six countries, with Venezuela attempting to gain complete control over independent news outlets. While there are no restrictions on VPN use in South America, three countries restrict communication apps (Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil).
Brazil’s largest ISP is banning VoIP apps, and there’s even a bill that mandates traceability for all private messaging solutions. Citizens that prefer to keep their online communications private turn to proxies, even for apps that offer end-to-end encryption like Signal and Telegram. If you’re looking for an additional security layer, click here to find out how proxies can help.
Internet Censorship in Asia
Currently, 12 Asian countries have limited or entirely blocked access to torrent websites. Most countries (82%) also have restrictions regarding online pornography access, with full blocks active in 27 of them. Things don’t look much better for political media either, with 34 countries having restrictions and 27 of those enforcing heavy censorship. UAE is still on top, with locals and tourists often using Etisalat proxies as the only way to get unrestricted internet access.
Internet Censorship in Africa and Oceania
Political media restrictions are going strong in Africa, with 43 countries restricting press freedoms and 11 enforcing heavy censorship. South Africa is actively shutting down torrent sites, while Australia actively enforces torrent blocks and bans.
Online pornography is restricted in 14 countries, with full bans in Uganda, Tanzania, Eritrea, and Equatorial Guinea. Australia considers watching porn an offense, with a new bill that could introduce a country-wide ban soon. VPN use is currently restricted only in Egypt.
What Does the Future Bring?
The number of countries introducing some sort of restrictions is concerning. Hostility toward political media is present worldwide, so we shouldn’t take our online freedoms for granted. We use the internet for just about anything, from research to playing games and reading the latest news. Freedom isn’t free, as they say, especially if you’re in China, Russia, Iran, Thailand, or the UAE.
Proxy servers still provide a simple and affordable fix. For countless people all over the world, they’re the only way to access the internet and enjoy everything it offers. Many individuals use proxies to share news from their home countries anonymously without fear of repercussions since every other solution (including VPNs, Tor, and smart DNS) is banned or monitored.