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What search engines can tell us about internet restrictions

Aug 10, 2020 · 3 min read

What search engines can tell us about internet restrictions

Search engine metrics are more than plain numbers — they can tell us a lot about the world we live in, our daily habits, and even the political situation. The NordVPN research team picked two keywords, “access” and “unblock,” to see where they lead on Google.

Video content is king

Researchers found 137,000 queries in 30 days containing a keyword “unblock.” A whopping 82.7% of these users were searching for ways to unblock YouTube. It was followed by Facebook (6.2%), Google (5.7%), Instagram (1.8%), and Reddit (1.5%).

IoT industries

This is not very unexpected, as YouTube is well known for restricting content depending on a user’s location. You have probably seen the “This video is not available in your country” message at some point, and many are eager to overcome this inconvenience.

The US, India, and Indonesia were among the countries whose residents looked to “unblock YouTube” most often.

YouTube was also the most popular platform to “access” with 88.5% of total search queries, which goes in line with its restrictive nature.

Why is YouTube a target for restrictions?

There are two main cases when YouTube videos are not available in your country:

  • video owners made the content available only in certain countries to comply with licensing agreements;
  • YouTube chose to block videos to comply with your country’s laws.

However, YouTube is also often restricted in schools, universities, or workplaces. Streaming high-quality videos takes up a lot of bandwidth and slows down the internet speed for other users. Besides, sometimes the temptation to spend an hour watching evil cat videos is just too high — at the expense of productivity.

One more reason why you may not be able to access your desired video content is traveling or living abroad. Different countries have different licensing agreements, which means different content libraries.

Getting around the Great Firewall of China

IoT industries

When we’re talking about restrictions, it would be a shame to leave China behind as its reputation reaches far beyond Asia. Since China blocks Google, NordVPN researchers took a look at Baidu, a local search engine of choice.

To bypass the so-called Great Firewall of China and access free internet, Chinese residents occasionally use VPNs. So what are they trying to unblock with those?

Google makes it to the top of the list (40.4%), followed by YouTube (31.6%), Facebook (8.8%), Instagram (8.8%), and Twitter (7.9%).

While most Westerners want to access restricted videos, Chinese people look for ways to search the web freely, catch a glimpse of Google services, and unblock websites.

Can a VPN unblock YouTube?

When looking for ways to “unblock” and “access” restricted content, you need to look no further than a VPN. Chinese citizens already know that it helps bypass censorship and surf the web without the prying eyes of the government. NordVPN has obfuscated servers specifically designed to bypass heavy restrictions.

But is a VPN something that would benefit users from other countries? A short answer: yes. A VPN redirects your internet traffic through one of its remote servers, masking your IP, encrypting data, and giving access to otherwise restricted content.

If you have ever bumped into a video you’re now allowed to watch in your country, failed to access social media accounts at your college, or faced online media censorship, a VPN is your first step to a free internet.

Enjoy your favorite content without limits with NordVPN.


Carlos Martinez
Carlos Martinez successVerified author

Carlos is a tech geek who writes about cybersecurity, online privacy, and the latest gadgets. When not rattling his keyboard, he’s always eager to try a new burrito recipe or explore a new camping spot.


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