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Emergency VPN: Fighting internet censorship in authoritarian regimes

Jun 17, 2019 · 2 min read

Emergency VPN: Fighting internet censorship in authoritarian regimes

Imagine your country is in complete chaos and people are getting arrested on the streets for their political beliefs. The internet, your only lifeline for communication and news, is being censored. For many in authoritarian regimes, this is a reality. However, a VPN is one of the few ways to bypass internet censorship.

A VPN, or virtual private network, encrypts the user's internet traffic and changes their IP address. This enables them to communicate privately and change their apparent location. People using a VPN can access blocked news websites, social media platforms, or apps wherever they are, even during media blackouts.

To fight extreme cases of censorship, NordVPN offers Emergency VPN assistance. This is a free VPN service for people facing oppression and heavy internet restrictions.

NordVPN has received over 430 requests for Emergency VPN access in 2019 so far. More than 350 of those came from Venezuela, which has been facing severe press and internet regulation. We also received requests from Egypt, Iran, and more countries under strict internet regulation.

Declining online freedom

Online freedom has been declining everywhere. In Venezuela, Egypt, Iran, China, and other authoritarian countries, just knowing what's going on is a challenge. All television and print press is state-run and opposition news is taken down.

Even democratic countries like Australia, USA, France, and others have passed controversial laws restricting internet freedom.

Citizens can use social media as an alternative news source, but even these channels are not safe from authorities. This has caused people to turn to VPN services for help.

  • In April 2019, when Juan Guaidó called Venezuelans to protest against Maduro's government, the country faced a complete media blackout. This left citizens to scramble for information since BBC, CNN, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Google were all blocked unless they had a VPN. This crisis was what prompted many to request our Emergency VPN service.
  • A spike in our regular NordVPN use came after the USA revoked the net neutrality act, which prevented Internet Service Providers from discriminating against content. Now ISPs can slow down or block any websites they want and charge more for higher speeds.
  • After Australia passed a law compelling tech companies to hand over their clients’ encrypted communications to the authorities, NordVPN downloads also increased. The law meant that messaging apps using end-to-end encryption could have ‘backdoors’ making unauthorized access to private conversations possible.

Staying anonymous

Aside from bypassing geo-restrictions in oppressive countries, citizens also use VPN services to stay anonymous online. By hiding the user's IP address, a VPN makes their identity unknown to third parties like ISPs (internet service providers), their workplaces, or the government.

In authoritarian regimes, it's quite common for people to get arrested for expressing their views online. Fortunately, a VPN service provides an extra layer of security. This is essential since restrictive governments are known to spy on popular social platforms in their countries.

We provide a free Emergency VPN service for six months for people in unsafe areas. If you are facing the threat of censorship or violence, contact us here.

If you are facing severe threats online, request our Emergency VPN here.


Sybil Andrea
Sybil Andrea successVerified author

Sybil spends her days browsing the net, which is where she started to learn about cyber security. She believes that everyone should have the right to go online safely, so now she shares her insights as a NordVPN content writer.


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