Part of our morning routine includes checking our social media accounts. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, we have the habit of occasionally checking them to see what our friends and family members are up to. Some of us may also be checking on the state of their own website to see how much success they are getting from that. Others may only have just begun to set up their own website, and they may be checking out sites such as hostiserver looking for options in terms of web hosting. This might be a normal part of life for us but in some countries, websites are blocked or access is limited. While the governments justify the actions to be political or for the sake of its citizens, the ability to access information lies within our rights.
Posting selfies on Instagram, tweeting our thoughts on Twitter and updating our status on Facebook are all part of our daily routine, but for some, these are only dreams. Whatever the reason might be, here are 10 popular websites that are blocked in other countries.
1. All Websites: North Korea – The internet is under government control and only about 4% of the population has access to it.
On December 20, 1990, the World Wide Web was made available to the public. Since its inception, many lives have changed and connecting with friends and family members has never been so easy. More than two decades later, while the rest of the world adapted the internet to be a part of their daily life, it’s not even a concept for the citizens in North Korea. It might come as a surprise but the country of 25 million literally do not know what the World Wide Web is.
North Korea tightly controls its citizens’ activities, especially their access to information on the outside world. Only a small percentage of people have access to such information. Privileged North Koreans such as government officials are the only ones who have access to Intranet. Yes, you read that right! Intranet, called “Kwangmyong” in North Korea, which means “bright”, is a self-contained, authoritarian alternative to the World Wide Web. Chats and emails are monitored and the content available is pre-filtered by the government.
Most North Koreans don’t even own a computer because owning a computer requires permission from government authorities. Some estimates suggest that in order for an ordinary North Korean to buy a computer, it would cost them at least three months of salary.
2. Skype, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Telegram and FaceTime: UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia – Most Middle Eastern countries either permanently or temporarily blocked VoIP services.
Apps like Skype, Line, Viber, and FaceTime use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services to interlink users. Since VoIP is encrypted, the conversations cannot be blocked or decrypted. This is why some Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) blocked any apps utilizing the service. Apart from blocking apps with VoIP, they also block apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Snapchat. Although these apps do not utilize VoIP services, the chats are encrypted; allowing the user to be transparent.
The government of Qatar does not block these apps or websites, however they do deliberately slow down the data transfer rate; causing lag and discouraging users. In UAE, WhatsApp, Snapchat and FaceTime are banned indefinitely, while Saudi Arabia lifted the ban in 2017. While many of these bans are done in order to limit usage and control the power of the internet, some are done to control freedom of speech.
3. Vimeo, Reddit and Imgur: Indonesia – The video-sharing websites were banned as a part of the government’s anti-pornography law.
Indonesia has a strict policy against pornography. While most of the world is quite open to sites such as https://www.tubev.sex/ Italian, Indonesian laws on adult entertainment is very strict. The law, which was established in 2008, bans any form of pornography across the country. In 2017, the government spent more than $15 million to block almost 800,000 sites, claiming more than 90 percent were hosting some form of pornographic content even reputable adult movie websites like Nu-Bay.com – Hot Nude Girls, Naked Pornstars, Pussy Porn VideosNu-Bay.com. The government also acts to get content removed from social media if complaints are received from the public.
As part of the anti-pornography law, the country recently took action against Vimeo, since the website contains videos that are seductive. While Vimeo is similar to YouTube – allowing users to upload videos in HQ – the platform is not as strict as YouTube. The Indonesian government claimed that this was enough reason to block the website completely; joining Reddit and Imgur on the country’s list of blocked sites.
4. Almost All Websites: China – The government censors content, mainly for political reasons, but also to keep control of the people.
Known for the Great Wall and as one of the biggest importers in the world, China is also known for censoring the internet. Citizens of the country are blocked from accessing almost all websites; especially social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Some sources claim that mobile Wikipedia is available in English. Unlike the US, China does not have First Amendment rights or freedom of speech and press.
China is a one-party state, and the state is subservient to the Communist Party. Since the government is concerned about what its own citizens read in Chinese, rather than in English, most of the websites in Chinese cyberspace are restricted. Newer generations of people are not even aware of social media websites and those who are aware of them, think that they are search engines.
5. Reddit: Russia – Roskomnadzor, Russia’s equivalent of the US Federal Communications Commission, asked the founder of Reddit to remove a post. When no one responded, he decided to block Reddit completely in Russia.
Many countries in the world censor the Internet and place restrictions on what users can view. One of the countries that engages in such censorious practices is Russia, who also keeps restrictions on the news media as well as freedom of speech. In 2015, an anonymous user created a thread on how to grow magic mushrooms. Although the thread was rarely read by anyone, the country’s internet watchdog Roskomnadzor took it seriously and asked Reddit to remove the post.
When the founder of Reddit failed to respond to emails requesting that the offending post be deleted or face being blocked, the government told internet service providers to shut off access to the site. Recently, some internet service providers have lifted the ban, but a majority of users still do not have access to the site.
“In Russia, there is a law which allows Roskomnadzor, Russian censorship agency, to block any website without court ruling.”
6. Wikipedia: Turkey – The free encyclopedia website was blocked in 2017 after Wikimedia Foundation refused to delete two articles upon the government’s request.
In 2017, the Turkish government came across two articles on Wikipedia that said Turkey had provided support for terrorist groups. When the government requested the articles to be removed, the Wikimedia Foundation declined. So, the Turkish government decided to ban the website completely from the country. It’s not just Wikipedia that is banned in the country, though. Since 2014, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and WhatsApp have been periodically restricted numerous times.
7. JW.org: Russia – JW.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, is banned in Russia.
There are more than 175,000 JW members in Russia. In 2017, a Russian court declared the group to be extremists and ordered the disbanding of the Jehovah’s Witnesses on Russian territory. While the members appealed the decision, the justice ministry argued that the group distributed pamphlets which incited hatred against other groups. The ruling also meant that the group’s headquarters near St. Petersburg and 395 local chapters would close and all its properties were required to be handed over to the Russian government.
8. Telegram and Instagram: Iran – The two famous apps were banned for a while but were unblocked with limited speed.
From December 30, 2017 to January 13, 2018, Iran’s judiciary banned Instagram and Telegram – dominant messaging apps in Iran. The government then requested its citizens to use a domestic alternative to Telegram, called Soroush; which offers many of Telegram’s features. Citizens, however, were wary of using domestic apps, in fear of exposing themselves to spying. The ban was placed because government officials believed that Telegram and Instagram were used by protestors to coordinate anti-government protests. Iran’s ICT minister, Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, claimed Telegram was complicit by “encouraging hateful conduct, use of Molotov cocktails, armed uprisings, and social unrest.”
After citizens protested, asking the court to reconsider the ban, it was finally revoked earlier this year. Although the ban was lifted, the government deliberately slowed down the Internet so that messages would be delivered slower than usual. More than 50 million Iranians (out of a total population of 80 million) have internet access, and 40 million are on Telegram.
9. All Websites: Cuba – Internet is only available at government controlled “access points”, that are monitored through IP blocking, keyword filtering and browser history checking.
Internet access is controlled and limited in Cuba. The public is not allowed to access the internet other than through government controlled “access points”. Even if a user gets access to the internet, they are not capable of uploading files. Only pro-government users have the required access and permissions to upload content to the internet.
There are 35 government computer centers around the country, where citizens can gain access to the internet. For one hour of internet access, an average Cuban has to pay a hefty price of $4.50 (£2.80); which is unaffordable for most Cubans. Getting internet at home is illegal and most businesses with internet have limited ability and is controlled/monitored by the government.
10. YouTube: China, Iran, Sudan, South Sudan, Turkey, Syria and Pakistan – Because of the ability for users to upload videos and documentaries on the video sharing platform.
Since its inception, not all countries have been happy with YouTube. To be more precise, its the content that they found on the website that upset them. YouTube was first restricted in Iran in December of 2006, after a sex video of an Iranian movie star was shared by an anonymous user. Countries where YouTube is banned (except for China and South Sudan) have a dominant Muslim population. In 2010, it was restricted in Sudan after videos of government officials rigging elections appeared on the website.