The concept of web blocking has been around for quite some time now, and it is a practice that many countries are using. But what does it actually mean, and how can it be avoided by regular Internet users?
What is web blocking?
Web blocking is a practice that is present in a lot of countries, and it includes various techniques that these countries’ ISPs (Internet Service Providers) are using to limit their users’ reach online. By using a combination of data feeds by various companies dedicated to content control, as well as that of government agencies, and forced by court orders, ISPs are basically blocking various websites and content that is available online.
The reasons for blocking websites are many, and they may vary from country to country. More often than not, the blocked content includes pornography, copyrighted content, malicious websites, filters that were introduced by ISPs by default, educational content (in some cases), corporate content, technical threats, extremist materials, sites blacklisted by the government, and alike. Websites that include racial and religious hatred were removed as well, but also various hacking websites, and more.
To block and filter these websites, the ISPs and the government agencies use a wide range of methods. Those include IP address blocking, DNS hijacking and/or blocking, as well as Deep packet inspections.
Naturally, blocking of content is a very controversial and complex issue. Denying access to content online may be seen as violating users’ digital rights by freedom fighting organizations. However, even they see the potential benefits in blocking dangerous materials and malicious websites that might directly harm the users, or lead to inflicting harm on others.
Not to mention other important issues, like sexualization of children, that have forced a lot of people to change their minds about web blocking, and start looking at it from a more favourable viewpoint.
However, the internet’s development has found a way to deal with these blocks and filters, and it is now possible to bypass them for pretty much anyone, regardless whether they are tech savvy or not.
How to access the web freely?
As mentioned, there are a lot of countries around the world that are practising web blocking, with only a handful of them that are not. Some of these countries are blocking only what is deemed necessary for the protection of the users. Others, however, have started doing it for different purposes too. The concept has even led to repression of information in some extreme cases, like North Korea, and alike.
The UK remains to this day one of the most developed countries that continue to be very much in favour of web blocking, and some believe that they are using this feature way more than what is necessary. Also, the UK doesn’t only block their citizens from accessing various websites but also does an external blocking, where a lot of their content is only available to the country’s citizens.
Still, the internet consists of many talented individuals that have developed various methods of bypassing the blocks, and those include different tools that are available online. Things like proxies, VPNs, and anonymous browsers like Tor started popping up all over the internet in the last decade.
These are the tools that allow users to hide or change their IP address in order to confuse the ISP’s systems regarding their locations. The IP address blocking has a pretty similar concept. Various websites are blocked by the ISPs, but only for those IP addresses that they themselves are issuing. If the user connects to a server in a country that is not blocking a specific website, they will be given a new IP address, one that has access to that specific website.
That way, the block is bypassed, and the users will be granted access to the content blocked by their own ISP. Proxies work in a slightly different way, and most of them will only hide the user’s real IP. They also come as a more economical option, but VPNs are much safer to use since they provide a much larger level of privacy and online anonymity. Not to mention that most of the good ones do not record users’ browsing history, and even if they do, they are not connecting it to the specific user, but are instead using it to better their technology.
Naturally, users need to be careful when it comes to the use of this technology, and avoiding free services is always the best option since they might be selling this browsing history to third parties.
As for anonymous browsers like Tor, they are also a decent option but come with their own limitations. The biggest problem with Tor is the slow data flow, which makes it next to impossible to download content or watch videos through this browser. Still, Tor has a lot of advantages as well, one of which is that it allows access to the deep web, and it keeps its user’s information private.
Methods of bypassing blocks and accessing the full potential of the internet are many, but the users need to remember that caution is always the top priority. The use of these methods is not illegal, but it is frowned upon in many countries, which might lead to government agencies contacting the VPN providers and asking for your information if you are detected as a VPN user. Some VPNs reserve the right to provide that info if asked to do so, so keep that in mind as well.