Demand for VPNs on the rise: How international tensions shape online freedom

How geopolitical tensions are reshaping the online landscape and fueling the rise of VPNs

7 Mins Read

PUREVPNPureVPN NewsVPNHow geopolitical tensions are reshaping the online landscape and fueling the rise of VPNs

You hop online to check the news, but all you see are stories approved by the government. Sounds crazy, right? Well, that’s the reality for many people around the world.

Countries like North Korea have super strict controls, basically locking their citizens out of the global internet

But even in democracies, things are getting a little dicey. 

Remember all those protests in Brazil? The government there tried to limit what people could see online. A VPN could be a tool in this situation, creating a way to browse freely and access information. We’ll explore how VPNs work to fight censorship a little later.

With international conflicts, internet censorship, and a rising tide of authoritarianism, governments around the world are increasingly cracking down on online dissent, limiting access to information, and silencing critical voices. 

This alarming trend is creating a digital divide, where a growing number of people are locked out of the free flow of information that is essential for a healthy democracy.

However, there’s a glimmer of hope in this darkening landscape: Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs. Let’s look at how these services are becoming vital for safeguarding online freedoms. 

The rise of internet censorship

According to a 2023 report by Freedom House, a non-profit organization dedicated to democracy and human rights, a staggering 83 countries now implement some level of internet censorship. The list includes the United States, Sudan, Russia, Ukraine and Egypt. This represents a significant increase from just a decade ago, painting a concerning picture of a world where online freedoms are under siege.

But where there’s a wall, there’s a way. VPNs have emerged as a powerful tool for protecting online freedom in the face of escalating censorship. 

It is witnessing a surge in demand, but that’s not all, it is also empowering individuals to reclaim their right to information and expression, even in the face of escalating censorship.

Public demand for VPNs is on the rise

Freedom of expression online is a fundamental human right. It allows individuals to hold their governments accountable, share ideas, and access information freely. However, as international tensions rise, more and more governments are resorting to censorship as a means of controlling the narrative and stifling dissent. 

This not only undermines democratic principles but also hinders the free flow of information, which is crucial for a healthy and informed society.

Public interest in VPNs is demonstrably on the rise, mirroring the growing concern about internet censorship. Moreover, there’s a clear and undeniable rise in public interest around VPNs. 

Let’s look at Google Trends for February to April 2024 for the search terms “VPNs,” “Mobile virtual private network,” “use of VPN,” and “use of VPNs” globally.

Search term: “VPNs”

Interest by regions:

According to Google Trends, Zimbabwe has the highest search volume when it comes to VPNs. It correlates with the 2023 report by Freedom House “Freedom in the World” stating that in Africa including Zimbabwe experiences strict internet regulations.

Search term: “Mobile virtual private network”

According to Google Trends, it seems mobile VPN searches are on the rise. This trend suggests a growing interest in using virtual private networks (VPNs) on smartphones and tablets.

However, it could be due to other reasons as well such as interest in securing internet connections and potentially accessing global content on mobile devices.

Search term: “Use of VPNs”

Search term: “Use of VPN”

Google Trends data shows a positive correlation between rising censorship concerns and search interest for “use of VPN” globally. Google Trends data confirms this positive correlation. Search interest in the use of VPN is demonstrably on the rise globally, mirroring a growing concern about internet censorship. 

YouTube, a popular platform for sharing information and opinions, reflects this trend as well. A rising search curve for “use of vpn” globally on YouTube reflects a growing curiosity about how VPNs can help access information and content that might otherwise be prohibited.

The situation in Brazil perfectly illustrates the correlation between potential internet censorship and a surge in VPN usage. 

When governments threaten to restrict access to social media platforms, a cornerstone of online communication and expression, it creates a chilling effect. People become apprehensive about voicing their opinions freely online, fearing government monitoring or retribution. And, Treendly paints a similar picture. 

According to Trendly data, there’s a clear growth trend in VPN usage in Brazil, with a significant 1.47% month-over-month increase in search volume over the past five years, strongly suggesting a cause-and-effect relationship. This indicates a growing need for tools to bypass potential censorship measures.

The picture becomes even clearer when we look deeper in other regions such as the US. The US market for VPNs, for instance, is experiencing steady growth, with a 0.4% increase in usage over the past year according to Trendly. This points towards a maturing market with continued potential for expansion, as shown in the above screenshot, which projects a growth rate of 2.79% within the next five years.

Read more: VPN Use Surges in Brazil Due to Potential X (Twitter) Ban

Chilling effect and self-preservation

When governments threaten to restrict access to social media platforms – a cornerstone of online communication and expression – it creates a chilling effect. People become apprehensive about voicing their opinions freely online, fearing government monitoring or retribution.

As stated by the National Library of Medicine, democracy can thrive on the collective strength of individual freedoms. Citizens must be empowered to think critically and express themselves freely digitally, even if their views challenge the status quo or global conflicts.

However, one thing that needs to be highlighted is that digital freedom may not be the most fundamental right (like the right to life), but freedom of expression is crucial. It allows for open discourse, the foundation for shaping public ethics and ensuring a healthy, evolving society.

And VPNs offer a powerful solution in such scenarios. By encrypting internet traffic and routing it through a remote server, VPNs allow users to avoid constraints due to content licensing agreements and access websites and platforms that may be banned in their location.

Public perception and censorship concerns drive VPN demand

News of potential social media bans can spread quickly, leading to a heightened public awareness of internet censorship. This, in turn, triggers a proactive approach from the public who want to safeguard their online freedom and access to information. They start researching and considering VPNs as a potential solution even before the restrictions come into effect.

The situation becomes even more critical in countries where internet censorship is a pressing issue. China also reflects this trend. While the 12-month growth in VPN usage in China is modest at 0.25% month-over-month according to Treendly, the five-year trend suggests a potential decline. 

This could be due to a combination of factors, including increasingly sophisticated government censorship techniques and a concerning acceptance of the status quo.

The cost of censorship

Moving forward, let’s take the example of the recent conflict between Palestine and Israel which serves as a stark reminder of the impact of international disputes on online freedom. Palestinians have faced restricted access to the internet, hindering their ability to express themselves and access information freely with the world. 

Russia’s war in Ukraine presents another alarming example. These laws, carrying sentences of up to 15 years in prison, have resulted in numerous individuals being jailed for expressing their anti-war views online. 

A recent report by Amnesty International revealed that at least 124 people in Russia have been criminally charged or fined for expressing anti-war views online since the start of the conflict. This crackdown clearly demonstrates the oppressive nature of internet censorship and the human cost it can have.

These are just a few examples of how international conflicts are fueling internet censorship. The impact of these censorships is far-reaching, silencing essential voices, hindering the free flow of information, and ultimately undermining democratic principles.

Read more: Censorship and online freedom of expression: Challenges and solutions

How PureVPNs offer a lifeline

As a company built on the principles of online freedom, PureVPN understands this chilling effect. It believes that citizens must be empowered to think critically and express themselves freely, even if their views challenge the status quo. This is why it offers robust VPN solutions that allow users to bypass censorship measures and access the information they need to stay informed and engaged citizens.

Moreover, the anonymity, strong security protocols like WireGuard and AES 256-bit encryption offered by PureVPN can empower users to express themselves more freely online, without fear of government monitoring or repercussions. This is particularly important for journalists, activists, and anyone who might face criticism for their views.

PureVPN, a toprated VPN service provider, recognizes the fundamental importance of an open and accessible internet. It is committed to empowering individuals around the world to reclaim their right to information and expression, regardless of where they are located.

For an extra layer of security and reliability, PureVPN offers multiple add-ons including dedicated IP, which assigns you a unique IP address, unlike the shared ones used by most VPN users. This can be particularly beneficial for avoiding CAPTCHAs and building trust with websites. 

PureVPN stands with those fighting for online freedom. We are committed to providing individuals with the tools they need to access information, express themselves freely, and navigate the complexities of an increasingly censored internet.

Read more: How to bypass censorship with a VPN in 2024

Bottom Line

As we move forward, it’s crucial to recognize the importance of a free and open internet. We must hold governments accountable for their censorship practices and support organizations working to defend online freedom. 

Additionally, promoting the use of VPNs as a tool for bypassing censorship can empower individuals to reclaim their right to information and expression in the face of these growing restrictions.

For more updates on how PureVPN is safeguarding online privacy and developments in the fight against censorship, follow PureVPN Blog. Also, don’t forget to stay informed by following our social media platforms as well!
Read more: Don’t let internet censorship hold you back: Using PureVPN is very easy for online freedom

Topics :

Have Your Say!!

Join 3 million+ users to embrace internet freedom

Signup for PureVPN to get complete online security and privacy with a hidden IP address and encrypted internet traffic.