VPN Demand Surges Around the World

This live tracker documents VPN demand spikes around the world and provides context for these increases.
VPN demand tracker hero image
Simon Migliano

UPDATED 12 Feb 2021 11:00 GMT to reflect the most up-to-date view on Myanmar VPN demand.

Introduction

Whenever authoritarian regimes around the world try to control the populace by disrupting internet access, people turn to Virtual Private Network (VPN) services 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.

February 2021

Myanmar

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

Demand for VPN services skyrocketed in Myanmar after the nation’s military blocked access to Facebook in the wake of their coup. This social media shutdown has been imposed to “maintain stability”.

Facebook is hugely popular in Myanmar and is being used to coordinate opposition to the coup that took place on Feb 2. Elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi was overthrown and arrested during the military takeover and her whereabouts remain unknown.

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. During this period, VPN demand remained significantly elevated at 1,419% higher than the average during the week leading up to the Feb 4 ban.

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%.

January 2021

Uganda

VPN demand increase: 1,015%
Context: Elections
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.

The defeated opposition claimed that the shutdown had been imposed to prevent them from sharing evidence of fraud after President Yoweri Museveni won an unprecedented sixth consecutive term.

November 2020

Thailand

VPN demand increase: 640%
Context: Censorship
Date: 02 Nov 2020

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

October 2020

Tanzania

VPN demand increase: 18,823%
Context: Elections
Dates: 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%
Context: Elections
Dates: 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%
Context: Protests
Date: 20 Oct 2020

Protests against 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%
Context: Election protests
Dates: 05-06 Oct 2020

Protests claiming 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%.

September 2020

Azerbaijan

VPN demand increase 1,646%
Context: Border conflict with Armenia
Dates: 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%
Context: Exams
Dates: 13-14 Sep 2020

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

August 2020

Belarus

VPN demand increase: 650%
Context: Protests over rigged elections
Dates: 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 brutal crackdown on extended protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, accused of rigging the results of the election.

July 2020

Ethiopia

VPN demand increase: 740%
Context: Protests
Dates: 30 Jun-23 Jul 2020

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

May 2020

Burundi

VPN demand increase: 5,686%
Context: Elections
Dates: 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.

There were claims of vote rigging during the campaign and reports of voting irregularities such as the arrest of opposition party members and some ruling party members voting multiple times.

March 2020

Guinea

VPN demand increase: 1,257%
Context: Elections
Dates: 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%
Context: Land dispute
Dates: 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 between villagers of Kamjong and Chassad on the basis that it would prevent the misuse of social media to spread hate.

India (Jammu and Kashmir)

VPN demand increase: 44%
Context: Political repression
Dates: 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.

Authorities claimed restrictions were “absolutely necessary in the interest of Indian sovereignty” but stand accused of trying to subjugate the region.

February 2020

India (Meghalaya)

VPN demand increase: 19%
Context: Local dispute
Dates: 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).

The restrictions were imposed after a meeting on citizenship law and inner line permit (ILP) in the East Khasi Hills resulted in violence between KSU members and non-tribals, and one person was killed.

Turkey

VPN demand increase: 810%
Context: Conflict
Dates: 27-28 Feb 2020

VPN demand 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. News sources claimed that the measures were taken in response to “online disinformation”.

Togo

VPN demand increase: 342%
Context: Elections
Dates: 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.

January 2020

Yemen

VPN demand increase: 175%
Context: Conflict
Dates: 10-16 Jan 2020

This week-long internet blackout arose from the long-running conflict in the region between Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led 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%
Context: Parliamentary dispute
Dates: 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. The shutdown was implemented as lawmakers and members of the media were blocked from entering the National Assembly premises.

Myanmar (Chin, Rakhine)

VPN demand increase: 238%
Context: Conflict
Dates: March

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. Authorities in Myanmar claim the blackout was necessary to restore order and protect national security in conflict zones. Access Now suggest it was done to cover up human rights abuses in these regions.

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.

Privacy-focused 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 that’s 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.