VPN Demand Surges Around the World

This live tracker documents VPN demand spikes around the world and provides context for these increases.
VPN Demand Statistics header illustration showing a rise in demand for VPNs to circumvent internet censorship
Simon Migliano

First published Feb 4, 2021. Last updated to include latest data on VPN demand in Pakistan.

Introduction

Whenever governments around the world try to control the populace by disrupting internet access, people turn to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in order to circumvent restrictions. These anti-censorship tools are often the only way for people affected by social media blocks to communicate with each other during the upheavals that often accompany such measures.

We routinely monitor fluctuations in global VPN demand as part of our day-to-day work. We will use that data to update this page whenever we identify a significant surge that correlates with social or political events.

Unless noted otherwise, our method for calculating demand increases is to compare the elevated period with the average over the previous 30 days.

We also investigate and test individual VPNs that benefit most from these surges in demand, to identify potential privacy and security issues.

While free VPN apps are naturally popular during government-mandated internet outages, we urge caution and advise using a trustworthy free VPN or, wherever possible, a high-quality (paid) VPN.

VPN Demand Surges in 2024

Pakistan

VPN demand increase: 131%
Date: February 18 (ongoing)

Demand for VPN services in Pakistan more than doubled on February 18 compared to the daily average over the 28 days prior as the authorities blocked Twitter.

VPN demand remained almost as high the following day when it was 91% higher than average.

This increase is especially notable as VPN demand in Pakistan was already elevated, due to the internet restrictions imposed in the period around the recent elections.

Senegal

VPN demand increase: 162%
Date: February 5

VPN demand in Senegal increased by 162% on February 5 compared to the daily average over the 28 days prior. This increase in demand for VPN services in Senegal as authorities cut mobile internet access in the country.

The internet blackout came in the wake of mounting opposition to the postponement of presidential elections, originally scheduled for February 25, which had been announced two days earlier.

VPN demand increased by 74% immediately following the announcement of the postponement.

While a VPN can’t help in the event of an internet blackout, the memory will remain fresh in Senegal of social media restrictions in June 2023 that sparked a record-breaking surge in VPN demand of over 60,000% that could be imposed once more to quash opposition.

Pakistan

VPN demand increase: 301%
Date: January 20

Demand for VPN services in Pakistan surged four times higher than average as the government again severely throttled access to all major social media platforms during an online event held by the opposition.[26]

It is the second time these kinds of restrictions have been applied in the last two weeks and VPN demand in Pakistan remained higher than average in the days between the two social media shutdowns.

VPN demand increased by 301% on January 20 compared to the daily average over the 28 days prior to the January 7 surge, which followed severe restrictions on access to social media platforms X (Twitter), Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Increases in VPN demand in Pakistan in January 2024

Increases in VPN demand in Pakistan in January 2024.

Pakistan authorities previously blocked the same social media platforms for seven hours around the time of an earlier online opposition event on December 17, which led to a similar surge of 229% in VPN demand in Pakistan.

Pakistan

VPN demand increase: 235%
Date: January 7

Demand for VPN services in Pakistan more than tripled as authorities blocked multiple social media platforms ahead of a virtual fundraising event held by the opposition to launch its election campaign.[25]

VPN demand increased by 235% on January 7 compared to the daily average over the 28 days prior in the wake of severe restrictions on access to X (Twitter), Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Pakistan authorities previously blocked the same social media platforms for seven hours around the time of an earlier online opposition event on December 17, which led to a similar surge of 229% in VPN demand in Pakistan.

North Carolina & Montana, U.S.

VPN demand increase:

  • North Carolina: 266% (peak)
  • Montana: 482% (peak)

Date: December 28 (ongoing)

North Carolina and Montana both passed new age verification laws last year, imposing restrictions on people looking to access adult material online. The laws came into effect on January 1 2024, leading to a surge in VPN demand in both states on December 28, which has continued into the new year.

In Montana, demand peaked on December 29 at 482% higher than the daily average over the previous 28 days, while on the same day in North Carolina, demand was 266% higher than average.

In both states, demand for VPN services began to increase again on January 2, reversing a slight downward trend following the initial peak. In Montana, it was 386% higher on average on January 2 while in North Carolina, demand was 229% higher on the same date.

The average daily increase in VPN demand in Montana since December 28 has been 172%. In North Carolina, it has been up by 113%. While VPN demand dipped to just below average for a couple of days mid-month, it has since begun to climb significantly once more.

Chart showing the increase in VPN demand in Montana and North Carolina, U.S compared to the daily average prior to December 28, 2023

Chart showing the increase in VPN demand in Montana and North Carolina, U.S compared to the daily average prior to December 28, 2023.

VPN Demand Surges in 2023

Iraq

VPN demand increase: 72%
Date: August 6

Authorities in Iraq blocked access to the Telegram messaging app on August 6 over what it claimed were national security concerns. The Iraqi telecoms ministry also accused Telegram, which is very popular in the country, of mishandling users’ personal data.

Demand for VPN services immediately surged by 72% on August 6 compared to the daily average over the previous 30 days.

ISPs in Iraq blocked access to Telegram via TCP/IP interference. This is done by making a specific IP address unreachable or injecting TCP RST packets during the connection between the client and target IP. TCP/IP-level blocks can be circumvented by using a VPN.

A government-owned network also showed evidence of BGP hijacking.

Senegal

VPN demand increase: 60,399%
Date: June 1 (ongoing)

VPN demand in Senegal rose by over 60,000% on June 2 compared to the daily average after the government restricted access to social media platforms and messaging services. It is the single largest increase in VPN demand by some distance that we have ever recorded.

A government official said social media platforms had been blocked to prevent the “dissemination of hate and subversive messages”.

On July 31, VPN demand rose again by 966% after the government imposed restrictions on mobile internet access, again offering the same excuse for doing so.

The following table lists the daily increases in VPN demand in Senegal compared to the 28-day daily average prior to the restrictions:

Date VPN Demand Increase
Thursday, 1 June 2023 8,197%
Friday, 2 June 2023 60,399%
Saturday, 3 June 2023 18,241%
Sunday, 4 June 2023 6,702%
Monday, 5 June 2023 4,586%
Tuesday, 6 June 2023 2,304%
Wednesday, 7 June 2023 1,445%
Monday, 31 July 2023 966%

ISPs in Senegal are blocking access to social media platforms by timing out the connection via TLS interference. This is different to disruptions that occur at the DNS level or IP blocking and may indicate the presence of deep packet inspection (DPI) technology as the failure occurs after the TLS ClientHello message. This type of interference can be circumvented by using a VPN.

Turkey

VPN demand increase: 99%
Date: May 12-14 2023

Demand for VPN services in Turkey began to increase significantly in the days immediately before the country went to the polls on May 14 for its presidential election.

On May 12 VPN demand increased by 68% compared to the daily average over the previous 28 days. It doubled (99%) on May 13 compared to the 28-day average as authorities began restricting access to popular local social media platform Eksi Sozluk. On the day of the vote, VPN demand remained 56% higher than average.

Access to Eksi Sozluk was previously blocked in February by the Turkish government.

Pakistan

VPN demand increase: 1,329%
Date: May 9-15 2023

VPN demand in Pakistan surged after authorities blocked access to Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms on May 9 following the public outcry over the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan.[24]

Demand for VPN services spiked by 311% on May 9 compared to the daily average over the preceding 28 days before rocketing to 1,329% above that average on May 10. VPN demand remained greatly elevated on May 11 at 1,050% above the daily average. While VPN demand has softened in the days since then, it remains on average 673% higher than it was in the period leading up to Khan’s arrest.

Access to mobile broadband services were also cut “indefinitely” across the country, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.

Utah, U.S.

VPN demand increase: 847% (peak)
Date: May 1-3 2023

Demand for VPN services in Utah have skyrocketed after adult website Pornhub disabled its website for visitors from the U.S. state due to the introduction of new age verification laws on May 2.[23]

VPN demand began to rise the day before the new rules kicked in, increasing by 142% on May 1 compared to the daily average over the 28 days prior. On May 2, demand for VPN services surged by 847% compared to that baseline. On May 3, the surge in VPN demand in Utah had slowed a little but remained 767% higher than average.

Brazil

VPN demand increase: 192% (peak)
Date: 27-29 Apr 2023

Demand for VPN services in Brazil has surged following local authorities’ decision to block Telegram. VPN demand on April 27 spiked 192% higher than the daily average over the previous 28 days. The increase in VPN demand in Brazil continue into April 28 when it was 128% higher than the baseline and remained 49% higher the following day.

Access to Telegram was blocked as a result of a court order due to the messaging platform’s refusal to supply user data on far-right groups.[22]

Italy

VPN demand increase: 678% (peak)
Date: 01 Apr 2023

VPN demand in Italy surged by 678% on April 1 compared to the daily average over the prior 28 days. This increase came as Italian authorities temporarily banned ChatGPT based on its lack of age verification and the massive data collection and storage that underpins it.[21]

Demand for VPN services remained higher than average in the days that followed, at more than four times (315%) higher than average.

In a recent investigation of ChatGPT clone apps, we found significant privacy issues.

Ethiopia

VPN demand increase: 3,651% (peak)
Date: 9 Feb – 19 July 2023

VPN demand in Ethiopia spiked massively after authorities restricted access to Facebook, Telegram and TikTok on February 9 due to religious tensions.

Demand for VPN services surged by 414% the same day compared the daily average over the prior 28 days. After authorities also blocked access to YouTube, VPN demand peaked at 3,651% higher than the average. Access has yet to be restored to the blocked social media platforms and while VPN demand may have dropped from its initial peak, it remained high on March 20 at 317% higher than it was before the restrictions were implemented.

Chart showing daily VPN demand increases in Ethiopia compared with the daily average over the 28 days prior

Chart showing daily VPN demand increases in Ethiopia compared with the daily average over the 28 days prior.

Turkey

VPN demand increase: 60%
Date: 22 Feb 2023

Demand for VPN services in Turkey experienced another notable increase on February 22. The 60% uplift followed the ban on local social media platform Ekşi Sözlük, which is similar to Reddit. No reason has been given for the block.

The increase in VPN demand was in comparison with the daily average over the preceding 28 days. Note that we excluded February 8 from this baseline as VPN demand spiked by 491% that day in response to Turkish authorities blocking Twitter.

Note: we updated the previously published increase of 41% to 60% once the full day’s data was available.

Turkey

VPN demand increase: 491%
Date: 8 Feb 2023

Demand for VPN services in Turkey immediately surged on February 8 following reports that Twitter had been blocked on several major ISPs in the country.

VPN demand rapidly increased over course of the day compared to the daily average over the 28 days prior. By 1600 GMT VPN demand was 157% higher than the average and by the end of the day, it was up 491%.

While the Turkish government did not announce or comment on the social media restrictions, the Twitter block came a day after a speech by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that warned that he would not allow “disinformation” to spread in the wake of the earthquakes.[19][20]

Netblocks confirmed the new internet restrictions: “Twitter is now restricted on some of the main internet providers in #Turkey by means of SNI filtering. The measure is distinct from the impact of the recent earthquake”.

Access to the social media platform was restored on February 9.

Louisiana, U.S.

VPN demand increase: 246%
Date: January 2023

Demand for VPN services jumped by 210% on December 31 in the the U.S. state of Louisiana compared to the daily average over the 28 days prior.

The increase came on the on the eve of new laws requiring age verification of Louisiana residents who visit adult websites that took effect from January 1.[18]

Daily VPN demand has remained elevated since then, peaking at 246% higher than the average on January 2 and was still 205% higher than the baseline on January 4.

VPN Demand Surges in 2022

Jordan

VPN demand increase: 249% (peak)
Date: 16 December

VPN demand surged by 249% in Jordan compared to the daily average over the 28 days prior in the wake of authorities’ decision to block TikTok during demonstrations over high fuel prices.

Although VPN demand decreased slightly, it remained 175% above average on December 18.

China

VPN demand increase: 184% (peak)
Date: 4 – 30 November

Note: due to the ban on VPNs in China, our usual monitoring methods are not available. In order to gauge current “demand”, we have instead analyzed Twitter data as a proxy for our usual data. See methodology for more details.

The number of Chinese-language tweets relating to VPNs has surged several times over the course of November as demonstrations took place in China due to popular resentment towards the country’s zero-Covid policy.

VPN-related tweets in Chinese soared by 184% on November 4 compared to the average over the prior three months and also remained 159% higher than the average the following day. This increase corresponds with demonstrations in Guangzhou over the same period.[15]

On November 14, Chinese-language VPN tweets jumped 162% above the average, as demonstrations took place in Wuhan.[16]

VPN tweets in Chinese again spiked on November 29 at 183% above the average. VPN tweets were more than double the average both the day before this peak and the day after. These increases corresponded with mass demonstrations across China.[17]

Chinese-language tweet relating to VPN use during demonstrations in November 2022

Chinese-language tweet relating to VPN use during demonstrations in November 2022.

Turkey

VPN demand increase: 771%
Date: 13 November

VPN demand in Turkey spiked after authorities temporarily blocked access to Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook in the aftermath of a bombing in Taksim, Istanbul on November 13.[14] The blocks were part of a broader media blackout that was imposed by the Turkish government.

Demand for VPN services immediately increased by 771% compared to the daily average over the previous 30 days. Access to the blocked social media platforms was restored after around 10 hours.

Kyrgyzstan

VPN demand increase: 147%
Date: 22 October

Demand for VPN services increased in Kyrgyzstan on October 22 ahead of planned demonstrations.[12]

The spike of 147% compared to the daily average over the 30 days prior. Comparing VPN demand on October 22 with a longer period, such as the average of the preceding 90 days, results in an even higher figure of 221%.

While there a was a significant drop in internet connectivity in Kyrgyzstan reported on October 24, it appears that this was not a deliberate government internet outage.[13]

Iran

VPN demand increase: 3,082% (peak)
Date: 22 September-31 October

VPN demand surged in Iran as authorities blocked Instagram and WhatsApp on September 21 in response to public marches in response to the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.

Demand for VPN services to circumvent the social media blocks rocketed by 2,164% on September 22 compared to the 28 days prior. VPN demand rose further still in the following days, peaking at 3,082% higher than before the demonstrations on September 26.

The average daily demand for VPN services has remained very high since that peak at 951% above the baseline. VPN demand began to soften significantly compared to the peak however on October 12, which may reflect that the Iranian authorities are have increasing success at blocking VPN traffic.

Chart showing daily VPN demand increases in Iran compared with the daily average over the 28 days prior to September 21, 2022

Chart showing daily VPN demand increases in Iran compared with the daily average over the 28 days prior to September 21, 2022.

Azerbaijan

VPN demand increase: 751%
Date: 14 September

Armenia

VPN demand increase: 84%
Date: 13-14 September

Demand for VPN services spiked in Azerbaijan and Armenia after TikTok was blocked in both countries following a renewal of the dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region on September 12.

Demand for VPN services in Azerbaijan increased by 751% on the day of the announcement compared to the daily average over the previous 28 days. In Armenia, demand for VPN services increased by 84% on September 13 compared to the 28 days prior and continued to remain elevated by 26% the following day.

Indonesia

VPN demand increase: 196%
Date: July 30-31

Demand for VPN services increased by 196% on July 30 in Indonesia compared with the daily average over the 28 days prior. The spike came as the Indonesian government blocked access to PayPal and major gaming platforms for failing to comply with new regulations. VPN demand remained 70% higher than average on July 31 despite Indonesia already having the highest VPN usage in the world.

The Indonesian government has since temporarily lifted the block on PayPal following an outcry in order to allow users to withdraw funds. Gaming platforms Epic Games, which is required to play Fortnite, Steam and Origin, remain blocked by the authorities.

Sri Lanka

VPN demand increase: 17,075%
Date: April 3

Demand for VPN services in Sri Lanka soared by 17,075% on April 3 after social media platforms Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp were blocked.

The government internet outage came during a nationwide curfew imposed on April 1 to contain demonstrations over worsening economic conditions and severe shortages.

The surge in VPN demand, which is compared to the daily average over the prior 28 days, followed a spike of 2,352% the day before on April 2.

Note: The total VPN demand figure was originally posted as 14,008% but has since been updated.

Russia

VPN demand increase: 2,692% (peak)
Date: February 24-March 31

VPN demand was resurgent in Russia going into the weekend of March 12-13 as the Russian authorities banned Instagram in retaliation for parent company Meta permitting calls to violence against the Russian military to remain on its platforms.

Demand for VPN services peaked at 2,692% on March 14 compared to the average daily demand in the week leading up February 24. This latest peak followed three days of sustained surging interest. As of March 31, demand for VPNs had softened but remained highly elevated at 243% above normal, while the average daily VPN demand between March 15-31 has been 617% higher than normal.

The official ban on Facebook and Twitter on March 4 had previously stoked demand for VPN services that work in Russia, pushing it over 1,000% higher than the baseline for two consecutive days

The restrictions on Facebook and Twitter had begun over the weekend of Feb 26-27 with internet speeds upon accessing those platforms so severely throttled as to render them unusable, prompting Russians to turn in increasing numbers to VPN services. VPN demand increased over the course of that week and by March 3 was over 750% higher than the baseline.

Chart showing daily VPN demand increases in Russia compared with the daily average between 17-23 February, 2022

Chart showing daily VPN demand increases in Russia compared with the daily average between 17-23 February, 2022.

Our analysis of Russia’s central register of blocked sites shows that the Kremlin has blocked over 1,000 sites relating to the war since February, including BBC News, Deutsche Welle and Voice of America Russian-language sites.

The Russian authorities confirmed on March 15 that they had been trying to block VPN traffic and would continue to do so. [11]

Ukraine

VPN demand increase: 609% (peak)
Date: February 15-March 23

VPN demand skyrocketed over the weekend of Feb 26-27. On Mon Feb 28, demand was 544% higher than the daily average in the first half of the month.

Demand continued to rise over the week, peaking on March 2 at 609% higher than before February 24.

In the three weeks since, average daily VPN demand has softened but remains very high comparatively, at 256% above the baseline.

VPN demand in Ukraine began to rise from February 15 due to increasing cyber-attacks,[10] climbing by 40% in the days before February 24.

Myanmar

VPN demand increase: 53%
Date: January 25

With a VPN ban looming[9] in Myanmar, demand for the anti-censorship software has started to ramp up once more. It was 53% higher on Jan 25 compared to daily average over the previous 28 days and was likely to exceed that again by the end of today (Jan 26).

As of January 2022 and with Facebook still blocked, VPN demand was 464% higher overall in the year since the coup compared to the previous 12 months.

Cambodia

VPN demand increase: 47%
Date: December 2021 – January 2022

VPN Demand in Cambodia has been increasing as the deadline for mandatory adoption of a new internet gateway approaches in February. In December, VPN demand was 56% higher than it was before the changes were announced in February 2021. In January demand has so far been 37% higher than it was before the new law was unveiled.

Kazakhstan

VPN demand increase: 3,405%
Date: 5 January 2022

Demand for VPN services surged 3,405% in Kazakhstan on January 5 compared to the daily average over the previous 30 days due to anti-government demonstrations. The increased demand was likely sparked by the disruption of mobile internet access by the Kazakh authorities on January 4-5. The government imposed a full internet blackout in the late afternoon of January 5.

VPN Demand Surges in 2021

Ethiopia

VPN demand increase: 5,109%
Date: 8-11 November 2021

VPN demand in Ethiopia began to surge on November 8 when authorities blocked Facebook, Messenger and Instagram following a leak of exam papers online.

Demand for VPN was initially 1,661% higher than the average over the 28 days prior before peaking the following day on November 9 when it was 5,109% higher than average. While demand then began to soften, it remained 3,464% higher on November 10.

With social media still blocked at the time of publication, VPN demand remains 718% higher than average in Ethiopia.

Singapore

VPN demand increase: 39%
Date: 02 October 2021

The Singapore government passed a draconian new law on October 5 that would allow it to crack down on “subversive” content by forcing ISPs and social media platforms to hand over user information, block content and remove offending apps.

Despite VPN services already being popular in Singapore, demand surged in the lead-up to the marathon parliamentary session that approved the legislation, peaking on October 2 at 39% higher than the daily average over the previous weeks.

In the seven days leading up to the law change, VPN demand was on average 19% higher than the previous weeks.

Zambia

VPN demand increase: 16,341%
Date: 12 August 2021

The Zambian government confirmed that it would shut down internet access as the country voted in its national elections on August 12.[8]

Demand for VPN software rocketed on the day of the shutdown, which blocked access to WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. It increased by 16,341% compared to the daily average over the three weeks leading up to the announcement.

Demand remained at a similar level on the second day of the shutdown, on August 13. It was almost 14,000% higher than it had been prior to the announcement.

Demand had already been on average 95% higher over the seven days between the announcement of the shutdown and it coming into effect, compared to the three weeks leading up to it.

Demand on August 12 jumped 5,886% overnight compared to the day before, when VPN demand had been 176% higher than before the announcement.

Note: Previous updates also showed earlier increases from August 10 when VPN demand was 151% higher than before the shutdown was announced.

Hong Kong

VPN demand increase: 50%
Date: 22 June 2021

Demand for VPN services jumped by 50% in Hong Kong on June 22 compared to the average for the prior 30 days. This followed the announcement that pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily would close at midnight on June 23.

A rise of 50% in Hong Kong is a significant increase as VPNs are already widely used there to circumvent censorship and avoid surveillance.

Nigeria

VPN demand increase: 1,409%
Date: 5 June 2021

VPN demand in Nigeria spiked on June 5 after Twitter was blocked by the government in retaliation for the removal of a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari for breaching the social media platform’s rules.

The government announced the indefinite Twitter ban on June 4, prompting an initial surge in VPN demand of 143% compared to the 30 days prior. The shutdown didn’t actually come into effect until the following day, when demand for VPN services soared by 1,409% compared to the same period.

Demand remained at 405% higher than the baseline on June 6. On Jun 7 it stood at 222% higher than prior to the announcement of the ban.

Myanmar

VPN demand increase: 672%
Date: Ongoing

See initial entry for Myanmar for data relating to period immediately following coup.

The people of Myanmar continue to experience rolling social media shutdowns and a mobile internet blackout, months on from the coup at the start of February.

Against this backdrop and with no end in sight for the internet restrictions, demand for VPN services in the 30 days to May 19 has been 672% higher than the daily average over the month prior to the coup.

[Update] As of January 2022, and with Facebook still blocked, VPN demand was 464% higher overall in the year since the military coup compared to the previous 12 months.

Ethiopia

VPN demand increase: 342%
Date: 17 May 2021

After Ethiopia’s national election was postponed for a second time on May 15, access to Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram was blocked for eight hours on May 17 against a backdrop of an ongoing civil war in the Tigray region.[7]

Demand for VPN services to circumvent this and any possible future social media shutdowns immediately surged. Compared to the daily average of the previous five days, demand on May 17 had already increased by 186% at midday local time, an hour after restrictions had been lifted, and then further to 247% by 3pm. By the end of the day, the increase was expected to be around 340% higher than the baseline.

Note: the end-of-day estimate was amended as additional data became available that suggested it would be higher than the 257% initially anticipated.

Colombia

VPN demand increase: 295%
Date: 4-6 May 2021

Demonstrations against tax hikes imposed by the Colombia government on April 28 have since spread across the country following a harsh response by law enforcement.[6]

At the same time as authorities shut down the internet in the Cali region on May 4, nationwide demand for VPN services began to spike, increasing by 148% compared to the seven days prior. The surge peaked the next day at 295% compared to that same period, although it continued remain elevated in the days that followed. On May 6 it remained 169% above the baseline, falling to 76% above that level on May 7.

This trend was even more pronounced in the Valle del Cauca region where the city of Cali is located. VPN demand increased by 314% on May 4 as news of the disruptions emerged, compared to the seven days prior. By May 5, it had spiked at 694% compared to that same period and remained 331% above the baseline on May 6. Demand remained elevated at 80% above the regional baseline on May 9.

India – Delhi

VPN demand increase: 53%
Date: 17 April 2021

VPN demand increased by 53% in the Delhi region on 17 April compared to the average of the seven days prior. The surge in demand coincided with the start of new social restrictions.

India -Uttar Pradesh

VPN demand increase: 96%
Date: 31 March 2021

Demand for VPN services almost doubled on March 31 in the Uttar Pradesh region of India. The region’s Epidemic Act was due to expire the same day but was extended until June 30.

Germany

VPN demand increase: 173%
Date: 27-28 March 2021

Demand for VPN services in Germany soared 173% over the weekend of 27-28 March as stricter social restrictions were imposed by authorities. This pattern is line with previous research.

Bangladesh

VPN demand increase: 738%
Date: 27-28 March 2021

Authorities in Bangladesh blocked Facebook and Facebook Messenger on March 26 amid a public outcry over a state visit by the Indian Prime Minister. The social media shutdown prompted a 738% spike in demand for VPN services.

India – Karnataka

VPN demand increase: 61%
Date: 16-22 March 2021

Over the week beginning March 16, demand for VPN services in the Karnataka region of India increased by 31% compared to the prior 30-day average. This came a day after possible new social restrictions were discussed.

India- Tamil Nadu

VPN demand increase: 53%
Date: 16-22 March 2021

VPN demand in the Tamil Nadu region of India increased by 31% over the week beginning March 16 compared to the prior 30-day average. During this period political leaders asked authorities to intensify social restrictions and punish those who breached safety guidelines.

Hong Kong

VPN demand increase: 245%
Date: 11 March 2021

Demand for VPN services in Hong Kong increased 245% on March 11, the same day that the Chinese legislature approved a resolution tightening control over the city’s electoral system.[5]

VPN demand had already increased by 27% on March 10, compared to the 30 days prior, before the surge on the day of the vote, which was almost three-and-a-half times the average of the previous 30 days.

India – Maharashtra

VPN demand increase: 109%
Date: 10 March 2021

The 109% increase in VPN demand compared to the seven days prior coincided with warnings potential new social restrictions.

Senegal

VPN demand increase: 4,200%
Date: 04-05 March 2021

Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Telegram were blocked following demonstrations over the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko. VPN demand surged by over 1,000% that day compared to the prior seven-day average. As of March 5, demand has now risen by over 4,200% compared to the same prior period.

Myanmar

VPN demand increase: 7,200%
Date: 04 Feb 2021

Demand for VPN services skyrocketed in Myanmar after the authorities blocked access to Facebook in the wake of a coup. This social media shutdown has been imposed to “maintain stability”.[3]

In the week following the Facebook ban, the ruling junta also proposed new cybersecurity laws that would allow it to censor any content it didn’t like.[4] During this period, VPN demand remained significantly elevated at 1,419% higher than the average over the week leading up to the Feb 4 ban.

Two months on, demand for VPN remains elevated compared to before the military takeover. On March 29, demand was 184% higher than the baseline prior to restrictions starting.

Note: VPN demand increased sharply over the course of Feb 4 and we updated the page several times to track it. At 10am GMT demand had increased by 4,300% compared to the average of the seven days prior. By the end of the day it was up by 7,200%.

Uganda

VPN demand increase: 1,015%
Date: 18-22 Jan 2021

Ugandan authorities restored internet access on Jan 18 following a five-day blackout around the nation’s election but social media remained blocked. VPN demand surged 1,015% over next four days following an initial peak of 1,343% on the first day of the social media shutdown.

VPN Demand Surges in 2020

Thailand

VPN demand increase: 640%
Date: 02 Nov 2020

The blocking of Pornhub and 190 other adult websites[2] led to a jump in VPN demand of 640% compared to the country’s Sept-Oct daily average.

Tanzania

VPN demand increase: 18,823%
Date: 27 Oct-06 Nov 2020

Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp were blocked via Vodacom, Airtel, Tigo, Halotel and Zantel in Tanzania on the eve of presidential and national assembly elections.

A partial internet shutdown was also brought in across Tanzania on the eve of presidential and national assembly elections, affecting all telecom providers.

Guinea

VPN demand increase: 3,043%
Date: 23-27 Oct 2020

An internet blackout impacted Orange network users ahead of Guinea’s presidential election result, with connectivity at only 9% of ordinary levels.

Users of MTN and Cellcom telecom networks experienced a social media shutdown ahead of Guinea’s presidential election result.

Nigeria

VPN demand increase: 239%
Date: 20 Oct 2020

Demonstrations over policy brutality, specifically the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), in Nigeria caused a rise in VPN demand as protestors feared an internet shutdown and prepared for the worst.

Kyrgyzstan

VPN demand increase: 29%
Date: 05-06 Oct 2020

Public accusations that the previous day’s election had been rigged led the Kyrgyzstan government to enact a partial internet blackout on the 5th October. The blackout reduced internet connectivity to 0.85%.

Azerbaijan

VPN demand increase 1,646%
Date: 27 Sep-12 Nov 2020

Access to Facebook, Youtube, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter became blocked following clashes in Armenia on 27th September over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Algeria

VPN demand increase: 828%
Date: 13-14 Sep 2020

A short internet blackout was followed by social media shutdown intended to prevent cheating on school exams.

Belarus

VPN demand increase: 650%
Date: August 2020

VPN demand increased 650% over August compared to the previous month following the 9 August election. Internet disruptions were implemented as part of a crackdown on extended demonstrations against President Alexander Lukashenko, accused of rigging the results of the election.

Ethiopia

VPN demand increase: 740%
Date: 30 Jun-23 Jul 2020

Ethiopian authorities cut internet access as part of their crackdown on the demonstrations against the killing of a popular singer. Demand for VPNs increased by 740% over the 23-day disruption.

Burundi

VPN demand increase: 5,686%
Date: 20-21 May 2020

This massive surge in VPN demand was prompted by the shutdown of access to all social media platforms and messaging apps on election day in Burundi.

Guinea

VPN demand increase: 1,257%
Date: 20-23 Mar 2020

The day after an initial short internet blackout on March 20, Orange and MTN networks blocked Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter for 36 hours while votes were cast during a controversial referendum in Guinea. VPN demand spiked 1,257% during this time.

India (Manipur)

VPN demand increase: 43%
Date: 16-18 Mar 2020

Demand for VPN increased by 43% after authorities ordered mobile internet services to be shut down. This was ordered due to a land dispute on the basis that it would prevent the misuse of social media.

India (Jammu and Kashmir)

VPN demand increase: 44%
Date: 04-07 Mar 2020

After the longest internet shutdown ever imposed in a democracy was lifted in March, relief was short-lived in Kashmir. Internet access remains nominal, as speeds were immediately severely throttled to 2G levels. VPN demand surged by 44% over the first four days of the new restrictions.

India (Meghalaya)

VPN demand increase: 19%
Date: 28-29 Feb 2020

VPN demand increased by 19% following a mobile internet blackout in a number of Meghalaya districts (East Jaintia Hills, West Jaintia Hills, East Khasi Hills, Ri Bhoi, West Khasi Hills and South West Khasi Hills).

Turkey

VPN demand increase: 810%
Date: 27-28 Feb 2020

Demand for VPN services in Turkey surged after authorities blocked access to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Youtube in Turkey on the day of an attack on Turkish troops in Idlib, Syria.

Togo

VPN demand increase: 342%
Date: 22 Feb 2020

On election day in Togo, access to Facebook and WhatsApp via Togo Telecom was cut from around 17:00. The country’s media claimed the block was politically motivated. VPN demand spiked 342% as a result.

Yemen

VPN demand increase: 175%
Date: 10-16 Jan 2020

This week-long internet blackout arose from the long-running conflict in the region between rebels and the coalition government. While the exact cause for the outage remains disputed, VPN demand surged by 175% during the disruption.

Venezuela

VPN demand increase: 1,731%
Date: 05 Jan 2020

Demand for VPN service shot up by 1,731% when Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Youtube were blocked on the morning of the National Assembly Leadership vote.

Myanmar (Chin, Rakhine)

VPN demand increase: 238%
Date: Jan 2020

VPN demand increased 238% month-on-month in March. This surge came amid internet disruptions in Chin and Rakhine states dating back to 2019 that didn’t end until August the following year.[1]

The Importance of VPNs

With more countries adopting internet monitoring and filtering tools to restrict free communication and access to information, VPNs have become key tools in the fight against online surveillance and censorship.

Private and secure VPN services, specifically designed to bypass web censorship, let everyday people regain access to the free internet.

The advanced obfuscation tools employed can overcome the most aggressive web content blocks, especially in countries like China and Turkey.

Not every VPN is safe to use or effective at circumventing web censors. It’s therefore vital to use a VPN verified to beat censorship.

Methodology

Using our global monitoring data, we continuously analyze daily VPN search volume by country. Where we identify step changes in demand compared to previous weeks that correlate with socio-political events in a particular region, we add the statistics to this page.

To calculate the increase in demand, we typically compare the average daily search volume during the period of elevated demand with the daily average for the thirty days prior.

Where this is not possible or not the most useful comparison, we calculate the delta from the previous seven-day period or look at month-over-month statistics. This is indicated in the relevant entry where appropriate.

For China, we scraped Chinese-language tweets containing reference to VPN. We cleaned this data to remove as many false positives as possible. We calculated the average number of tweets between August 1 and October 31 and used that as a baseline for comparison.

References

[1] https://www.accessnow.org/internet-shutdowns-2020-elections/

[2] https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-thailand-porn/savepornhub-thailands-online-porn-ban-prompts-backlash-idUKKBN27J0KM?edition-redirect=uk

[3] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-55923486

[4] https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/myanmar-military-government-s-cyber-bill-would-violate-rights-14165312

[5] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-56356046

[6] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/05/colombia-llamado-urgente-cesar-violencia-contra-pueblos-indigenas/

[7] https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/social-media-restricted-ethiopia-netblocks-says-2021-05-17/

[8] https://www.lusakatimes.com/2021/08/05/zambia-to-shut-down-the-internet-on-voting-day-as-facebook-urges-government-to-keep-internet-open/

[9] https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Myanmar-Crisis/Myanmar-renews-plans-to-curb-internet-usage-with-VPN-ban/

[10] https://netblocks.org/reports/internet-disruptions-registered-as-russia-moves-in-on-ukraine-W80p4k8K

[11] https://interfax.com/newsroom/top-stories/76778/

[12] https://eurasianet.org/kyrgyzstan-mass-arrests-over-opposition-to-uzbekistan-border-deal

[13] https://twitter.com/netblocks/status/1584474670577127424

[14] https://netblocks.org/reports/social-media-restricted-in-turkey-after-blast-in-taksim-istanbul-7yNnr0yq

[15] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/nov/15/covid-curbs-fuel-unrest-in-southern-chinese-city-video-shows

[16] https://www.reuters.com/world/china/china-reports-4045-new-covid-cases-nov-3-vs-3372-day-earlier-2022-11-04/

[17] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-63805188

[18] https://techcrunch.com/2023/01/03/you-must-now-verify-your-drivers-license-to-watch-pornhub-in-louisiana/

[19] https://balkaninsight.com/2023/02/08/turkey-blocks-twitter-after-public-criticism-of-quake-response/

[20] https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/turkey-earthquake-twitter-restricted-complicating-rescue

[21] https://www.reuters.com/technology/germany-principle-could-block-chat-gpt-if-needed-data-protection-chief-2023-04-03/

[22] https://netblocks.org/reports/telegram-restricted-in-brazil-after-refusal-to-supply-user-data-to-authorities-JBZxOr86

[23] https://www.vice.com/en/article/93kbkv/pornhub-blocks-utah-age-verification

[24] https://netblocks.org/reports/internet-disrupted-in-pakistan-amid-arrest-of-former-pm-imran-khan-JA6RmrAQ

[25] https://news.abplive.com/news/world/pakistan-reports-internet-outage-ahead-of-pti-virtual-fundraiser-imran-khan-party-says-absolutely-shameful-1654971

[26] https://www.livemint.com/news/trends/pakistan-sees-nationwide-internet-disruption-again-expert-says-outage-remarkably-systematic-11705763200442.html