But the rest of the globe isn’t as lucky as Gibraltar, we know all too well of restrictions when we try and use iPlayer or Netflix abroad. Many issues can be circumnavigated by using a VPN site, but some countries aren’t as lucky. So, what weird and wonderful restrictions are out there where and why?
In countries where the law of the land is exceptionally strict, VPN usage is prohibited, for example North Korea, China and Iran. Facebook is blocked in China, the government offer their own social media alternative of which they can monitor and keep close control. Google in China has a special feature which alerts users when they are about to search for something that may get them in trouble.
Censorship around the globe maybe to establish national security, maintain political stability or impose traditional social values. Often however, it is reflective of an oppressive regime and is put in place as another layer of control over a population to stop them from communicating their unhappiness, or reading about the outside world.
In the United Arab Emirates, X-rated or pornographic material is banned as well as any dating sites, providing a hefty fine for individuals that access such materials. In Jordan the same applies, as well as gambling and gaming sites. Recently the government in Jordan cracked down on 48 news websites and made them completely unavailable at work, deeming web browsing a waste of productive working hours and money.
Meanwhile in Cuba, all private internet service usage is banned and instead the government tightly monitors several access points across the island. Authorities in Cuba keep a close eye on personal internet browsing history and if any such individual is found to be looking at anything the government deems as unsuitable, or uses a private internet connection, they may receive a five-year prison sentence in return. Why are the laws so tough in Cuba you may be asking? Apparently, the government state, it is due to high fees and an embargo from the states although it would appear more likely that it is a mechanism put in control by the communist government.
Morocco technically has no such laws, however the government block and unblock sites at their discretion and many popular blog websites such as Tumblr and WordPress are restricted with YouTube and Google Earth also seeing bans. Negative online discussion regarding the Moroccan monarchy, government or religious views can land you behind bars.
Iran also sees incredibly tough internet restrictions, including both Facebook and YouTube. In fact, over 1 million websites are banned. Internet users are required to make an agreement with the government that they will not access any non-Islamic websites and the government also impose download limits for personal use.
Burmese authorities adopt a different way of policing internet usage, by ensuring the speed is exceptionally slow. This enables the authorities to keep a close eye on the online activities of users. All modems must have an official stamp of approval from the Burmese government. Any opinion sites, whether that is human rights, equality or politically related are banned. Dare to go on any banned sites and you will land yourself with one of the heftiest penalties in the world, a fifteen-year minimum prison sentence.
Here in Gibraltar, we should consider ourselves lucky that the only issues we come across is occasionally not being able to stream a YouTube video!