Social Media is an immensely powerful tool today. With a click of a button, it makes it possible for any individual to contact, reach, and share information with thousands and even millions of people in the world – Well, this is something that was nearly impossible a few years ago. Social media can benefit individuals, companies, government, and charities in sharing information or spreading any message to the masses. But keeping this benefit aside, social media like any other tool is being used for both good and evil.
There are several parties who are leveraging this tool to push an agenda, spread propaganda, and even lies and misinformation. No wonder, even in this age of instant information, the usage of Social Media isn’t boundless for all. The gloomy truth is, several countries around the globe seek to limit outside influences, hence they block internet connections and censor content whenever and wherever possible. This article is a look at the top countries that have banned Social Media websites.
Countries that have banned social media
1] North Korea
Number 1 on the list of countries that have banned Social Media and perhaps the most tarnished exponent of internet censorship. You will be surprised to know, but they have access to under 30 websites available from inside the country. No wonder, their censorship is ranked as one of the most extreme in the world. The government officially banned Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter in 2016 in a move for underscoring its concern with the spread of online information. Most of the country’s internet use is restricted to military personnel and government. A very limited number of the country’s citizens have access to the internet and can view only government-sanctioned intranet.
Eritrea is Africa’s most secretive state. In recent years, it has managed to attract a lot of attention from journalists – thinking why? The country’s president imprisoned closely 2 dozen without charge in 2014. Access to information in the entire nation is also hurt by a ban against mobile Wi-Fi and means the citizens are only allowed to access the internet via slow dial-up modems, which accounts for the very truncated access rate of just one percent.
Internet censorship in China is one of the most extensive censorships in the world making it one of the top-most countries that have banned Social Media. It is because of the huge variety of legal and administrative regulations. Even though access to the Internet is broad, and an active social media industry is present, the country block IPs, filters searches and even erases content or reroute queries for restricted content to pro-China information. This barricade is often denoted as “The Great Firewall of China”. Over the past decade, China has blocked Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as thousands of other overseas websites, including The New York Times and Chinese Wikipedia.
4] Saudi Arabia
Several books, magazines, newspapers, films, content, and television published on the Internet are highly censored in Saudi Arabia – the reason is religious beliefs. No. 4 on the list of countries that have banned Social Media, this country has banned nearly a half million websites which contain content countering to Islamic beliefs counting political, social and religious. All internet traffic into Saudi Arabia passes through a router strictly monitored and controlled by the Ministry of the Interior (i.e. a department of the Saudi Arabian government responsible for maintaining a list of previously blocked websites). The government blocked access to Wikipedia and Google Translate, which were being used to evade the filters on the blocked sites by translating them. YouTube isn’t blocked, but the government has made plans to regulate local companies producing the content for this platform. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are widely used in the country.
Several social media tools and several products which encrypt internet conversations — have been unavailable in Iran for quite long now. As of 2013, nearly 50 percent of the top 500 visited websites worldwide were blocked, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, making Iran one of the countries that have banned Social Media. In 2009, Iran became the world’s leading jailer of journalists and has ranked amongst the world’s worst jailers of the press every year since then.
It looks quite like a surprise when Bangladesh is listed in the countries that have banned Social Media. Bangladesh’s social media prohibition comprises more than just Facebook. In 2015, the government temporarily blocked Facebook and other social media, for a period of 22 days following it’s Supreme Court’s decision to defend the death sentence of 2 men convicted of war crimes. Bangladeshi telecommunication authorities dispensed a ban on more than 18,000 websites which supposedly contained pornography or “obscene” content, this included Somewherein.net, the internet’s largest Bengali language-based blogging platform, and Google Books. Mustafa Jabbar, Posts and Telecommunications Minister describes these efforts as a “war” against pornography.
The state on the ground in Syria is far away from being stable, in warlike probabilities, restrictions on Internet use in the country are likely to endure. It is no wonder to see Syria’s name in the list of countries that have banned Social Media. Syria actively bans websites for political reasons and arrests public accessing them. Websites which cover politics, minorities, human rights, foreign affairs, and other sensitive topics are banned completely in Syria. Social media, messaging sites, and video uploading, all suffer from poor reliability and are regularly monitored.
Preceding the Tunisian revolution, Internet censorship in Tunisia was widespread. Following the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Internet censorship significantly decreased in the country. Tunisia isn’t prohibitive in terms of preventing its citizens from viewing “subversive” content but is increasingly interested in preventing the bloggers from uploading content. Access to the Web is limited to a mere 40% of all inhabitants. Furthermore, Internet providers should report all the bloggers (including their names, personal info, and addresses) to the government.
Vietnam’s communist party permits its citizens to access common websites like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft’s MSN if those sites give up the names of all bloggers using their services. Moreover, they block any websites critical of the Vietnamese government, expatriate political parties, and international human rights organizations; basically, any site which advocates for human rights, freedom, and democracy. In 2016, the Vietnamese government blocked its citizens from accessing Facebook during President Barack Obama’s visit to the country. According to Reuters, the country desired to quiet human rights activists.
Myanmar, formerly called Burma also aggressively blocks websites that disagree with the official government or uncover human rights violations. Being one of the countries that have banned Social Media, Myanmar also filters through email messages, social media and all other forms of web-based communications to ban rebel activity in the country. The internet cafes must keep user record and make them available to the police on request.
India has banned TikTok, along with 58 other mobile apps, citing “activities…prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of the state and public order.”
This list isn’t an exhaustive one, other countries where Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) bans have been common are Cuba, Egypt, Mauritius, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Algeria.
The motivations for censorship can range from well-intentioned requirements to protect children from unsuitable content, authoritarian shots to control a nation’s access to information and yes, the political ones.
Why did India ban TikTok?
India banned a total of 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok. According to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, these Chinese apps were a threat to the data security and privacy of Indians. After being banned in India, TikTok and other Chinese apps were also removed from the Google Play Store and App Store so that no one could install them on their smartphones.
Can I use a VPN for TikTok?
There is no definitive answer to this question. TikTok was banned in India because it possessed a security threat to the national security and privacy of the citizens of India. Because the ban is at the national level, you may not be able to use TikTok even after connecting to a VPN. Many users tried installing TikTok by using a VPN but to no avail.
If you know of any countries that have blocked social media, do share in the comments below.
Read next: List of countries that have officially banned the use of VPN.