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 5 Oct 2021 08:51 GMT to include latest data on VPN demand in Singapore.

Introduction

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

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

October 2021

Singapore

VPN demand increase: 39%
Context: Legislation change
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.

August 2021

Zambia

VPN demand increase: 16,341%
Context: Elections
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.

June 2021

Hong Kong

VPN demand increase: 50%
Context: Closure of Apple Daily newspaper
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.

The closure comes after recent raids on the newspaper’s office over allegations that it had breached a controversial national security law. Apple Daily’s assets have been frozen, while senior staff and a journalist have been arrested. Founder Jimmy Lai is also in jail. The loss of the publication represents a further chilling of freedom of expression in Hong Kong.

Nigeria

VPN demand increase: 1,409%
Context: Twitter ban
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.

May 2021

Myanmar

VPN demand increase: 672%
Context: Military coup
Date: Ongoing

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

The people of Myanmar continue to suffer rolling social media shutdowns and a mobile internet blackout, months on from the military coup at the start of February, whose bloody aftermath has claimed over 800 lives.

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.

Ethiopia

VPN demand increase: 342%
Context: Elections / Conflict
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 and vicious 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%
Context: Protests
Date: 4-6 May 2021

Protests against the Colombia government sparked on April 28 by proposed tax hikes have since engulfed the country after the police response turned deadly. As many as 47 people have been killed during the protests.[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.

April 2021

India

Delhi

VPN demand increase: 53%
Context: Pandemic
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 a new lockdown prompted by a new wave of coronavirus infections.

March 2021

India

Uttar Pradesh

VPN demand increase: 96%
Context: Pandemic
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 in the face of a new Covid-19 surge.

Germany

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

Demand for VPN services in Germany soared 173% over the weekend of 27-28 March as fears mount over a potentially devastating third wave of coronavirus spreading through the country. Authorities tightened borders and Angela Merkel’s federal government threatened to seize control from states failing to impose the necessary restrictions to reduce Germany’s increasing infection rate. Previous data has shown that demand for VPN services typically increases as greater social restrictions are imposed.

Bangladesh

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

Authorities in Bangladesh blocked Facebook and Facebook Messenger on March 26 amid protests over a state visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modhi. The social media shutdown prompted a 738% spike in demand for VPN services as Bangladeshis sought to circumvent the attempts to quell protests that have sparked clashes with security forces. At least 10 people died as Islamist groups protested Modhi’s treatment of Muslims in India.

India

Karnataka

VPN demand increase: 61%
Context: Pandemic
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 lockdown measures were discussed and coincided with the beginning of a new wave of Covid-19 infections.

India

Tamil Nadu

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

As Covid-19 cases surged in the Tamil Nadu region of India, VPN demand 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 measures and crack down on people violating safety guidelines.

Hong Kong

VPN demand increase: 245%
Context: Elections
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] The new laws ensure that only people deemed “patriots” by a pro-Beijing panel can be elected.

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%
Context: Pandemic
Date: 10 March 2021

The 109% increase in VPN demand compared to the seven days prior coincided with warnings of Covid-19 cases rising and a potential new lockdown. This came the day before Mahashivratri and the issue of new government safety guidelines for the annual Hindu festival.

Senegal

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

Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Telegram were after protests against the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko turned violent. One person was killed in the clashes with police on March 4. 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.

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”.[3]

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.[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 from the coup, with a rolling internet restrictions and death toll in excess of 500, 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%.

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[2] 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: Election protests
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 suggests it was done to cover up human rights abuses in these regions.[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.

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.

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/