IN MANY COUNTRIES, you simply don’t have access to all the websites you use on a daily basis.
Sites like the BBC, Lonely Planet,YouTube, popular blogging platforms, and many social networks are blocked by pervasive censorship programs in China, Saudi Arabia, and other parts of the Middle East and Asia.
In addition to the large scale blocking campaigns present in these countries, smaller, more targeted forms of internet censorship exist in most places in the world.
Fortunately, there are a few things travelers can do to access the internet anywhere, regardless of restrictions.
1. Assess your access
The first step to circumventing internet censorship is to plan ahead. By conducting a little research in advance, you can find out if the internet is restricted in the areas you will be traveling.
More importantly, you can figure out what types of site, or even if one specific site, is banned. This is important because, if at all possible, it is best to avoid bypassing restrictions. A great source for information on internet censorship in the world is the OpenNet Initiative.
2. Bring a few tools
The easiest way to ensure your anonymity is to carry your own browser, like portable Firefox, on a portable USB flash drive.
When you step into an internet cafe, simply plug in the USB drive and open your browser from the portable drive. This is also an important step to ensuring your online security as well.
The next thing you need is the PortableTor client. Simply download the client and install it to your USB drive just like you did with Firefox. Then add the TorButton and User Agent Switcher add-ons to Firefox.
Now, whenever you open Firefox, open PortableTor along with it. You will be able to enable the Tor network with a button located at the bottom of the browser, which allows you to connect to the internet anonymously.
3. Use an online proxy
If you don’t have a USB drive, there are some internet sites that accomplish the same thing. A quick internet search for “proxy” or “anonymizer” will turn up many options, all equally suitable and insecure.
Instead of trusting an unknown site, I like to use one of the more popular online translation services like Google Translate or AltaVista Babel Fish. Simply enter your URL in the “translate site” dialog and select an option that translates into English.
4. Take An In-Direct Route
This system enables what is called “proxy browsing.” If you imagine the internet as a subway network, proxy browsing would be like taking an indirect route, changing train lines at several different stations, rather than taking the direct line.
In this analogy each station represents a different remote computer connected to the internet. It works because internet censors have trouble blocking your route once you connect through another computer.
5. Prepare To Go Slow
Just like taking the indirect route on the subway, browsing the internet in this way will be slower. Because you are connecting through several different computers, you are at the mercy of each one’s connection speed.
Another reason to be careful when proxy browsing is that the connection is not secure. Every time you connect through another computer there is a chance that the information you are transmitting could be intercepted. For this reason, proxy browsing is not for very sensitive private information like banking.
Finally, you must ask yourself if it is ethical or safe for you to access something that is baned in the country you are visiting.
While your intentions may be innocent, they may not be interpreted as such by those around you.
Anonymous internet browsing can be slow, insecure, and not totally ethical but there may be times you have no other choice. In these cases, the techniques outlined above can help you access your important data anywhere in the world.
What are your thoughts on bypassing internet censorship? Share your thoughts in the comments!