What is Internet Censorship and How Does It Work?

Internet Censorship

Internet Censorship – How does it work?


Some countries like China and Russia are able to control the internet. How is this possible? Even Australia censors the internet and some of what its citizens are able to do. Governments are able to snoop, censor access, and completely shut down internet access at times. 

What is Internet Censorship? 

Internet censorship at its most basic level is restricting access to something on the internet from a government entity or other organization. It can be blocking access to copyrighted information, sensitive content, or just restricting the use of the entire platform.

According to Wikipedia internet censorship occurs in response or in anticipation of events such as elections, protests, and riots. Internet censorship varies depending on the country.

What Are Some of the Potential Methods of Censorship? 

This is a list of some of the technical blocking techniques that could be used to filter can suppress content to consumers:

  • IP Address Blocking – Blocking the access to certain addresses.
  • Domain Name System (DNS) Blocking – Blocking the access to the domain name.
  • Uniform Resource Locator (URL) Filtering – The URL is scanned for keywords and if they are found the address is blocked.
  • Packet Filtering – Terminate transmission of information when strings of keywords are found. For example, what is used in search engine boxes?
  • Connection Reset – If a connection was blocked by a filter, other sites would be blocked for a time even if it’s accepted communication.
  • Network Disconnection – Cutting off of all routes by shut down of software and/or hardware.
  • Portal Censorship and Search Result Removal – Simply removing and excluding results from search engines.
  • Computer Network Attacks – Denial of service attacks preventing access to services when seen as a potential attack can censor more than just the attacked location.

Consider that there are non-technical ways that the internet is censored as well. Many laws and regulations that vary country-to-country restrict or disallow some content. Examples of this are copyright laws, libel laws, and licenses.

How Does Internet Censorship Work? 

Computer users need to have a connection to the internet. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) cluster together internet users and serve as a gateway to the internet. They can effectively be the censor or completely pull the plug on the internet if the government orders them to.

This happened in Egypt in January 2011 during protests . It is speculated that ISPs were warned that the call might be coming and were ready to pull the literal plug. As soon as the call was made the internet was shut down swiftly.

So, the physical system of the internet appears to be decentralized, but if you are connected to the internet, you need to buy services from an ISP, use a university system, or a corporate system – either way, they end up at a central routing location that acts as a choke point to your content.  This is great for those countries that want to control the information that their citizens receive.

Centralized Internet 

Countries like China have Chinanet-Backbone where they provide filtering of their internet from only three main autonomous points or “choke points” for the whole country. From these points, it can see 75% of all of the IP addresses in China.

Egypt has three major hubs that all incoming and outgoing data from the internet must pass, even before it gets to the smaller ISP in Egypt. Filtering and having two checkpoints.

VPNs and Democracy 

If you are in a democratic country, Mubarak-levels of authority to shut down your internet is unlikely. The content blocked from you is probably more related to the fact that it is content related to geo-location. For example, you’re in Australia but want to watch a game broadcast in India. Or want to use a peer-to-peer sharing system that is not legal in your country.  There are ways to circumvent these restrictions.

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is a masking service that allows users to send and receive data under the cloak of a secret or private network. Data that is traveling between the VPN and your computer is encrypted. Each computer has an address called an IP address. The address, among other things, tells what country you are from and a general sense of your location. You may check this guide to the best vpns available in Australia.

How Does a VPN Help with Censorship? 

A VPN can be used to hide your location by using an IP address of another country or location, so you can see data and content that was restricted due to a location which is called geo-locked. Things that are censored in your country should become unlocked because you are hidden and using an IP address that would appear to be not from the censored location.

A VPN also protects your privacy. So, if you are in one of the countries that snoop on citizens, log their behavior on the internet, and generally watch its citizens online, a VPN makes your internet actions private. It covers where you are and who you are on the internet. No longer is your identity and your computer’s identity known as soon as you connect to a website. It’s a good idea always to use a VPN whenever you connect to a hotspot so that you are not vulnerable to whatever is on the servers.


While once thought of as a huge autonomous multifaceted web, transcending boundaries, the internet is actually a series of choke points where governments can impose their rules, laws, regulations, and censorship. Some of this censorship can be overcome, some cannot – it wholly depends on the regime and government you live under. A free internet allows people of all areas to congregate, share, and plan. That’s either good or bad depending on where you live.

Author Bio : Bram Jansen is a passionate technical writer.He has interest in latest technologies and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks).

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