As deadly clashes break out between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, Azerbaijan’s government has restricted Internet access in the country “in order to prevent large-scale Armenian provocations.”
Most downloaded apps in Azerbaijan: iOS/Android pic.twitter.com/ESIKcWpPXX
— Cavid ⛧ (@cavidaga) October 4, 2020
Internet users are facing difficulties in accessing social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, & communication apps like Zoom, WhatsApp, Google Video, Facebook Messenger, Viber, and Skype. You know, basically everything.
my dear @InternetFF community. i have a question on VPN providers. we have had a week of internet disruptions in #Azerbaijan and users have been heavily relying on VPN providers. I have shared @EFF guides already but any further advice is welcome.
— Arzu Geybulla (@arzugeybulla) October 3, 2020
Azerbaijan’s Citizens Resort to VPNs to Circumvent Censorship
Google Trends shows a huge spike in VPN-related searches from Azerbaijan
As a result, more Azerbaijanis are turning to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to access the Internet without any restrictions. However, this isn’t the first instance that Azerbaijan has taken measures to impose online censorship.
Google Trends shows a significant growth in search queries for PureVPN from Azerbaijan
Our website’s Google Analytics shows a noticeable increase in Azerbaijani traffic
VPN enables users to avoid government blockades. Whether the new restrictions are enforced using deep packet inspection or DNS-level blocks, a VPN can help you regain access to censored websites and apps.
Due to this, our website has seen a jump in traffic from Azerbaijan following the governments’ imposed restrictions.
Internet Censorship is on the Rise Worldwide
Azerbaijan isn’t the only country to practice censorship. For example, the Chinese government announced the new security law for Hong Kong in May, which sparked concerns surrounding Internet freedom.
Similarly, Iran blocked access to Wikipedia’s Persian version for 24 hours in March to control the coronavirus (COVID-19) narrative. Overall, the trend of censorship is increasing globally. According to Access Now, there were 219 internet shutdowns across 33 countries in 2019, higher than in 2018.
Internet restrictions are becoming increasingly common, and this an area where VPN usage can prove useful. VPNs provide safe and secure access to censored materials. Plus, by concealing your true IP address, it allows you to use the internet without worrying about getting tracked.
Privacy and security-conscious Azerbaijanis should exercise caution, though. Not all VPNs are safe, especially when it comes to free ones. They put you at greater risk, which is why you should stick to paid options and do your research before deciding on any VPN provider.