How to Bypass censorship with a VPN – Beat firewalls and unblock websites

a hand holding a smart phone with green coding layered over it

The expat life can be incredibly rewarding, a truly life-changing adventure. But there’s little doubt that being an expat can also be intensely challenging. And if you’re an expat in a country with pervasive internet censorship, it can be all the more challenging because you may be locked out of many if not the vast majority of websites and online services you’ve been used to using back home (depending on how extensive the censorship is in your adopted country).

You’re digitally handcuffed by these government firewalls and you’ve done nothing wrong.

Imagine not being able to keep in touch with your family and friends back home, collaborate with colleagues and conduct business internationally, have the freedom to express yourself online without fear of retribution from authorities, or access reliable, trustworthy news sources on the internet. That’s the unfortunate reality for expats living in countries like China, Iran, Russia, or anywhere else widespread internet censorship is the norm. Government firewalls in countries like these aggressively block access to major sites and services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, The New York Times, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, and tons of others. This leaves you, as an expat, effectively cut off and unable to communicate properly with the outside world, speak your mind online, or keep up with what’s really going on in the world.

There’s absolutely no reason for you to accept that as your reality as an expat in a country that heavily censors its internet and denies its citizens basic human freedoms. There’s no reason that you should allow yourself to be deprived of your rights to freely communicate and access information. There’s no reason that you should be denied access to the open and unrestricted internet.

And you know what? You don’t have to give these overbearing governments the satisfaction of dictating what you can and cannot view on the internet or what online services you can and cannot use. You can bypass government firewalls and defeat online censorship with a VPN.

How can a VPN help you defeat online censorship?

Well, when you connect to a VPN, your connection is run through an encrypted tunnel to a secure server in a remote location. This means that whatever you do online, whatever sites you visit, and whatever online services you use will be completely hidden from your ISP, government entities, hackers, and anyone else interested in snooping on what you’re up to whenever you go online.

The fact is, it’s none of anyone else’s business what you do online, but too many governments are all too keen on seeing what people are doing online and blocking people from doing things online that they deem inappropriate for whatever reason. The grounds for blocking access to sites can be based on political, moral, or religious reasons, but it’s usually all about social control. The governments of countries like China or Iran, for example, are big on the idea of cyber sovereignty – i.e. tightly controlling what sites and services are accessible online within a country’s borders. By controlling what the populace has access to online, a government can wield enormous amounts of power and influence over public discourse and opinion and effectively squash any form of dissent within its borders.

Freedom House is an organization that really does some excellent work defending human rights and civil liberties. A big part of that involves researching and staying current on how governments around the world censor and control the internet. Freedom House’s research reveals to what extent certain governments go to control the internet, manipulate the flow of information, and punish those who step out of line. In some countries, the censorship and control efforts are so perverse and the penalties for expressing dissenting opinions online so merciless that it defies belief. Speaking out against the government or merely conveying an opinion deemed counter to the government’s ostensible ideas of appropriate thinking – regardless of how innocuous the opinion may be – can get you imprisoned, or worse.

This is why you need to be extremely careful if you’re an expat living in a country where the government exercises such totalitarian control and imposition on its populace. You’ll need to encrypt your internet activity with a VPN not only to gain access to blocked sites and services but also to protect and preserve your fundamental human rights and freedom of expression.

One significant issue, however, is that many of these governments’ firewalls are trained to detect and disarm VPNs and other tools capable of bypassing traditional firewall filters. Because of this, not many VPNs are able to actually bypass robust government firewalls like China’s Great Firewall.

In other words, not any VPN will do. You need a VPN that is effective when it comes to bypassing even the toughest of government-imposed firewalls. The best VPNs for bypassing government firewalls and evading censorship use obfuscation technology to sidestep government-imposed IP blocks and disguise users’ VPN traffic as regular HTTPS traffic. Your VPN’s obfuscation capabilities will allow you to completely hide the fact that you’re even using a VPN in the first place. Because governments like China actively look to block unauthorized VPN use, it’s imperative that you have a VPN that uses obfuscation to cloak its presence.

Beyond obfuscation, you’ll need a VPN that keeps no logs of your activity that could potentially be traced back to you, provides robust encryption to secure your data and online activity, and offers vital security features such as DNS leak protection and a kill-switch to ensure your true identity and activity are never exposed.

If you’re looking for a VPN that can get the job done on all fronts and give you access to vital communication tools and trustworthy new outlets while concealing your activity and keeping you safely out of the reach of government authorities, then I’d definitely recommend going with ExpressVPN. With ExpressVPN, you’ll get access to a special network of stealth servers located in Hong Kong that are explicitly designed to get around the strictest government firewalls, including China’s GFW. You’ll also benefit from top-of-the-line VPN encryption standards, DNS leak protection, and a firewall-based kill-switch to keep you safe. The one drawback with ExpressVPN is that it is quite a bit pricier than a lot of its competition. It’s a premium product with a premium price tag, but you’re really getting what you pay for with ExpressVPN, so if you can swing it, I’d definitely say to go with Express.

If you want something comparable but a bit easier on your bank account, then I’d recommend looking into Surfshark or VyprVPN. Both are excellent VPN providers that provide obfuscation and all the necessary privacy and security features you need to circumvent government firewalls and stay completely safe while doing so. They’re both more affordable than ExpressVPN, but don’t feel like you’re settling with either one because both are world-class services that go above and beyond what you’d need for vanquishing the most vigorous censorship efforts.

Being an expat is difficult enough as it is, don’t let authoritarian governments make it more difficult on you by dictating what you should and shouldn’t be allowed to access online. It’s not up to the government to decide if you should be allowed to freely communicate with family, friends, and colleagues on Skype, WhatsApp, or privately Zoom, if you should be allowed to send a tweet or check Facebook, or if you should be able to read news that isn’t all government propaganda. Don’t let any government try to manipulate what your online experience should consist of. Get a VPN, bypass those firewalls, access the open web, defeat censorship, reject the surveillance state, preserve your fundamental human rights, be free.

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