How to Safeguard Online Freedom and Bypass Internet Censorship

Internet censorship poses a grave threat to the open exchange of information and freedom of expression online. As more countries implement restrictio

Internet censorship poses a grave threat to the open exchange of information and freedom of expression online. As more countries implement restrictions ranging from IP blocking to deep packet inspection, citizens face growing barriers to accessing independent news, social platforms, and other digital spaces. However, through a combination of secure tools and vigilance, internet users can take steps to circumvent censorship and access an open internet.

The Global Spread of Online Censorship

According to Freedom House’s 2022 Freedom on the Net report, global internet freedom has declined for the 12th consecutive year. Out of 70 countries assessed, just 12 have an “open” internet where content is freely available and users face few repercussions for online activity. The remaining 58 countries engage in some form of censorship, from blocking social media to “bandwidth throttling” that slows connection speeds.

Motivations for censorship range from suppressing political dissent to restricting immoral or blasphemous content. But no matter the rationale, limiting access to information violates basic digital rights and prevents meaningful civic participation. As censorship technology becomes more advanced, users must equip themselves with tools and techniques for bypassing blocks.

Choose a Secure VPN

A VPN can provide an encrypted tunnel past censorship systems. By connecting through a server in an open country, users can hide their identity and bypass geographical restrictions. However, not all VPNs live up to their security claims. When choosing a provider, ensure they offer:

  • Strong encryption like AES-256 to prevent snooping
  • A strict no-logs policy prohibiting activity tracking
  • Obfuscation protocols to disguise VPN traffic
  • Fast speeds for smooth web browsing
  • Multiple server locations to switch countries if one is blocked

Established VPN providers like NordVPN, ExpressVPN and Surfshark meet these criteria. But also research less mainstream options, as popular services often face targeted blocks.

Use Circumvention Tools

Beyond VPNs, various software tools allow bypassing censorship via encrypted connections. Tor routes traffic through a network of volunteer relays, making tracing incredibly difficult. Proxies like Psiphon disguise data as normal web activity. And WireGuard utilizes state-of-the-art cryptography to conceal communications.

Most circumvention tools are blocked in highly restrictive countries. But providers frequently release new domain names and versions to stay one step ahead. Bookmark sites to access updates quickly in case of fresh blocks.

Exercise Caution to Avoid Detection

While VPNs and proxies provide vital lifelines to information, users in high-risk regions should exercise extreme caution. Authoritarian governments actively monitor for usage of censorship tools, deploying expansive dragnet surveillance. Select tools carefully to avoid honeypots established specifically to catch dissidents.

Additional best practices include:

  • Using throwaway accounts unlinked to real identities
  • Enabling VPN kill switches to prevent IP leaks
  • Clearing cookies/cache after sensitive sessions
  • Securing devices against physical tampering
  • Meeting contacts securely using end-to-end encrypted messengers like Signal and Telegram

Bypassing censorship may carry legal risks like fines or imprisonment. Consider your personal threat model and only access blocked content selectively.

Join the Movement for Online Freedom

Internet censorship impacts marginalized communities most severely, depriving them of tools for activism and self-expression. But thanks to dedicated organizations like Access Now, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Article 19, the tide is shifting.

Grassroots digital rights campaigns have successfully defeated censorship laws from India to Italy. You can join the fight by:

  • Donating to groups expanding access through legal and technical means
  • Volunteering to run censorship measurement tests or develop open-source tools
  • Lobbying governments and corporations to make internet freedom a priority
  • Protesting in coordinated #KeepItOn actions against shutdowns

United, global citizens can resist the authoritarian push to splinter the internet and usher in a new era of connectivity, transparency, and empowerment. Though the road ahead promises obstacles, through vigilance, solidarity, and circumvention, we will safeguard online liberty.