Larger Share of Global Economy Finds Itself Behind Digitally Isolated

Larger Share of Global Economy Finds Itself Behind Digitally Isolated

Internet Censorship

Many national or regional governments consciously restrict the access of the general public to some online websites or information in the form of internet censorship. This restricted access to the internet is an important issue even in high-income countries with high internet speeds or most internet users. In 2022, Freedom House estimated that around 4.5 billion people on the face of the planet earth have access to the internet. Internet censorship can negatively affect freedom of speech and can also cause violations of human rights. It also affects the ability of people, groups, or governments to coordinate their operations, which is disastrous in both daily life and civil unrest. 

The economic impact of such censorship on the global economy is huge in terms of restricted opportunities for e-commerce and limited access to information. Data restrictions can not only negatively effect the GDP (gross domestic product) of a country, but they can also harm its global trade. That is why some international organisations, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF)  and the World Trade Organization (WTO)  stress the importance of open economies with fewer restrictions on the movement of goods, resource, as well as data.


Internet censorship can be done in multiple ways. For instance, the majority of the citizens are cut off from the internet in North Korea. Only a small number of people can access its highly censored and controlled internet. 

If physical infrastructure and digital infrastructure, are present for the general public to access the internet, there are still many ways that governments use to restrict access to the internet. The most common technique is site blocking. The process of restriction involves entirely blocking access to the website that regulators do not approve to be used generally and removing information about concerned topics. 

Sites and content can be restricted manually or automatically through innovation, with the help of algorithms that instantly restrict access to controversial materials. In some developing countries, governments block certain websites and restrict access to information during elections or other political scandals when they think it could be harmful for the well-being of the ruling elites.

Technical Measures

The censorship rules and regulations are mainly imposed by governments to restrict access to ISPs, websites, and apps. But there are also some other techniques to block and filter content:

A diagram illustrating the technical measures to restrict the internet.

Packet Filtering

Packet filtering involves monitoring keywords and ending TCP packet transfers if there are any inappropriate words detected.

IP Address Blocking

In this case, authorities blocked the connection to individuals with blacklisted IP addresses, but it also affected the other websites hosted on the same server, even if they were not involved in showcasing inappropriate content.

URL Filtering

In this technical measure, some pages can also be filtered out if they contain sensitive terms in their domain URLs.

DNS Filtering

Regulators and authorities restrict access by DNS hijacking, which takes the person to the wrong IP addresses, or by not resolving the domain issues.

Removing Pages from Search Engine Results

Regulators and authorities restrict some search engines to exclude some websites from their results so that it becomes impossible for the general public to find these websites unless a user already knows the URL.

Blocking the Networks

Another technique is blocking access to routers. It can be done by using various hard-core software-based techniques and turning off the hardware. Disconnecting the network restricts access to the whole area, and this can be done by the government when there is a political imbalance to shut down the connections between individuals.

Resetting Network Connections

When a connection is blocked by a filter, it can cut off the connection on both sides, the client and the server, for a set amount of time. It restricts other users from reaching the site and also stops the offending individuals from visiting other sites.

Strict Internet Censorship Countries

Many countries have multiple levels of internet censorship. The following are some countries that have strict internet censorship, which restricts their citizens from accessing the internet freely.


China has the world’s most advanced censorship system. It blocks many foreign websites, such as Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, and Facebook; instead, it has its own advanced platforms that are highly controlled, such as WeChat, used for messaging, social media, and mobile payments, and Baidu, which is a search engine in China. These platforms are more highly censored than in other western countries. Chinese authorities not only block the access of controversial material but also monitor the access of its citizens by using artificial intelligence (AI).

North Korea

Just like China, North Korea is also on the list of the most strict internet censors in the world. North Korea allowed limited access to its citizens for the use of digital technologies. As the population of this country is large, it is impossible to find the exact number of internet users. It provides less access to the elite class or other high-class institutions as well. Although North Korean people have mobile phones, only some of them have access to the internet. Their internet is only limited to an intranational system known as Kwangmyong. This internet only provides access to universities, local and government authorities, and libraries.


Cuba also allows limited access to the internet for its citizens. A most significant step by its authorities in 2015 was the Cuban government’s rollout of public WiFi hotspots. In 2018, 3G was also introduced, which allowed Cubans to access the internet through their data plans. Despite all the advancements, the internet in Cuba is still more costly than an average salary. There is also strict censorship against those who publish or blog about Cuban human rights abuses or criticise the political system. All social media platforms are allowed, such as Facebook and YouTube, but Skype is banned due to some strange reasons.


The Iranian government also strictly controls the internet access of its citizens. It also blocked many social media platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, along with pornography and gambling sites. Its authorities also blocked those websites that criticised its governments for some reasons. Many sites that are anti-Islamic within the culture or discuss LGBT issues are also blocked in this country. Iran also banned social media access during situations of unrest, such as when Instagram and Telegram were temporarily blocked in 2017.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia also has strict internet censorship, in which all the internet information first goes through the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, where the content is filtered from those that seem inappropriate by the governments, either ethically or morally. These sites restrict content about Shia Islam, drug use, LGBT rights, pornography, gambling, financial services etc. Most recently, it has been filtering information about the murder of the famous journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey’s Saudi Arabian embassy.


It also has tight control over the flow of information within the country. It is not very strict like China, but its heavy punishments restrict its citizens from disobeying the restrictions. The law also forced social media organisations to store their Vietnamese data within the country’s boundaries. In 2018, Facebook banned 670 accounts and Google removed 5000 YouTube videos from Vietnam. Both Facebook and Instagram have been temporarily banned during protests.

The above mentioned countries are just a few. Many other countries, such as Russia, India, Ukraine, OECD countries, South Africa, the United States, the United Kingdom, and countries in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the European Union also put restrictions on the use of the internet.

Methods to Evade Internet Censorship

If you are a citizen or just travelling through these highly strict internet censorship countries, you have to take some precautionary measures in order to get access to free internet. It can be illegal to do so, which is why one should understand the laws of that relevant country and then do this at their own risk.

A diagram illustrating the methods to evade internet censorship.

Alternate Locations

In some cases, censorship can be evaded by the source of information or the individual finding it out. The whole process is dependent on how content is blocked. If a censorship system filters out a certain URL, the site administrators can also get around it by hosting the information at other alternative locations. This is not a fruitful practice because censors can also block the other site as well. Sites can be copied and stored on other sites. The user can easily get it from other alternatives if the original site is blocked.

Proxy Servers

If a site is blocked, users can use proxy servers to get access to the relevant website. When a person uses proxy servers, such as, they can access the content they are looking for.

Instead of loading the website directly, which is being hosted, the users can open it through the proxy server, which allows users to access the blocked content easily. The governments can also block the proxy sites, making it difficult to find a proxy service that is still working.

SSH Tunnels

SSH is also a protocol that is used to evade internet censorship by encrypting data between server and client, but the filter cannot actually recognise what the user is accessing. Authorities cannot get access to the encrypted data in strict censorship countries, such as China, and the SSH tunnels or connections are also disrupted.


VPNs are similar to SSH tunnels, which provide connections between the client and server by using different protocols. VPNs are the most commonly used tools that provide past online censorship as well. Some governments use advanced detective tools and blocking mechanisms to assure censorship.


It is also a system that is used to evade censorship. Tor encrypts data in layers and sends this data through a series of nodes, each consisting of an encryption layer. This process allows users to access restricted information or restricted websites without being censored by the authorities. Some countries have also blocked the standard configurations of Tor, so it is not easy to access the restricted data. In countries with strict censorship, like China, users can access the information with the help of a meeting bridge.

Reasons to Use a Proxy Server

The following are some reasons why one should use a proxy service:

Assure Online Privacy

If a person wants to reclaim his privacy and make sure his sensitive information is not in harmful hands, then using a proxy server is a better option, which uses IP addresses to provide relevant information.

Access Geo-Restricted Information

Video content is the one that is more restricted in many countries. YouTube, Netflix, and many more websites already have restrictions according to their users’ locations. A proxy server can change their online location to any country in the world by providing access to the website like a local citizen.

Prevent website blocks and restrictions.

Educational institutions, workplaces, or some countries, like China, decide to put restrictions on certain websites. Proxy servers, such as marsproxies, can be used to access these websites. For example, a proxy server can be used for reading Reddit, unblocking Instagram, and listening to music on Spotify.


In conclusion, internet censorship prevents individuals from accessing websites or online information. Governments of multiple countries restrict their citizens’ access to those websites that seem inappropriate or against the political matters of that respective country. But it is also for the betterment of the people, as it restricts pornography and gambling websites. But people can access these kinds of websites and others using proxy servers, which provide encrypted access to the required data or website. There is already a great deal of a digital divide between high- and low-income countries in terms of the availability of the internet, and the restrictions on using it, are making the situation worse.