Tech

Blocked from Netflix and TikTok, Russian Demand for VPNs Skyrocket 

Over 200 news websites are blocked in Russia.
IMAGE SHUTTERSTOCK
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The demand for VPNs is skyrocketing in Russia and Ukraine as a result of the unofficial tech war happening between the two nations.

As tech companies hold their own economic siege against Russia, Russians are now resulting to visual private networks (VPNs) to access websites like Netflix and TikTok, which are now restricted in their country. Even websites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are limited in Russia, resulting in a 668 percent increase VPN search volume from February 27 to March 3. That increase peaked to 1,092 percent on March 5, according to Top 10 VPN’s data.

As of March 10, the Kremlin has blocked over 200 news websites, such as BBC and Deutsche Welle, since the invasion. 

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, civilians are downloading VPNs to fight Russian cyberattacks that are blocking access to government websites and news platforms. VPN search volume increased by 609 percent from February 27 to March 2, but has since dwindled to 389 percent as of March 10. This is likely due to the internet interruptions in the country, which can’t be fixed VPNs, and the mass evacuation of civilians out of Ukraine. 

Photo by Statista.
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Outside of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Kazakhstan has the highest VPN search volume as a result of the government’s internet shutdown, which was in turn caused by national protests against the rise of natural gas prices. Kazakhstan is experiencing a 3,400 percent increase in VPN searches as civilians attempt to access websites in the cyberspace. 

Myanmar also experienced an increase in VPN searches, which are set to be blocked by a proposed cyberlegislation. Myanmar recently experienced another military coup, which is also cracking down on internet freedoms. Meanwhile, Cambodia is following in the footsteps of China with a planned “internet gateway” that could soon strictly control all web traffic in the country. 

VPNs allow you to hide your location and bypass blocked websites in your country, and in countries not so fraught with conflict, this means allowing someone from the Philippines to access Disney+ by using a VPN that puts your location in the U.S. Netflix users can use VPNs to access libraries in other countries, and expats can use VPNs to access websites in their mother tongue. But it appears when conflict is afoot, VPNs might just be the last foothold for free internet and freedom of information. 

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Anri Ichimura
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