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How Does Censorship Work?

One question we get a lot is exactly how does censorship work.  The answer is, of course, that there are a multitude of types of censorship but that basically fall into a couple of main categories – Content Provider Censorship and Service Provider Censorship.  Both of these types of censorship utilize your location to enforce censorship rules.

To understand the location part, you should first know that your IP address is used to determine where you are in the world to everybody outside of your service provider.  A service provider – in the States it would be companies like Comcast, Verizon, etc… – are those companies that provide your Internet connection.  When your computer connects to the Internet it broadcasts an IP address which is a number that uniquely identifies your computer or network to the world.  If you have a bunch of computers all going through a common router then the router would likely broadcast a single IP address for all of your computers.  To figure out your IP address, go to http://whatismyipaddress.com/

IP addresses are not randomly assigned, rather each country has a set of IP addresses assigned to it – check out this site for some country ranges.  Each country, in turn, disseminates those IP addresses out to its regions then cities and then specific locations.  Using this system, IP addresses can be tied directly to a given city or region without much trouble and, depending on your country, to specific physical addresses.  In fact this is often how hackers, illegal porn operators and spam generating people are tracked and shut down.  It is also how many content providers determine who can receive their content.

When you try to visit a given website, your IP address is sent with you and this allows that website to determine where you physically reside.  Thus the NFL, NBA or MLB might be blacking out the local game in your city and, based on your IP address, they will block your access to that content – Content Provider Censorship.  In England, the BBC will only show its TV programming to IP addresses that reside within its borders.  Most U.S. content providers also restrict content in this manner and U.S. banks will immediately shutdown online access to IP addresses outside of the U.S. – even if you are 1 mile inside Canada for instance.

In these cases, the way around the block is to change your location…and you do that by changing your IP address.  So how can you do that?  The answer is to use a proxy server which is a special computer that will take a request for web content from you, grab that content on your behalf and send the content back to you.  A good proxy will use its IP address when sending out the request and if you find a proxy in the right location, the content provider will not block the request.  Sounds great but the reality is that some proxies do really bad things, others are useless and current proxy users often struggle to make anything work.  To learn more please read our page about the Reality of Using Proxies.

On the other side, your service provider does not need your IP address to know where you are and, in fact, they know exactly who you are in most cases.  Sure you can go to a local coffee shop but the cafe still has a provider and that provider knows the cafe’s exact location.  The most well-known examples of this type of Service Provider Censorship are the Great Firewall of China and the Middle East countries that shut down communications during the Arab Spring but the truth is that all countries censor and block content.  Check out the latest Google Transparency Report to learn more.

Again the solution here is to find a way to retrieve the content outside of your service provider and have that content sent back to you in an invisible manner.  Proxies servers work great here as well – if you can find a trustworthy option – and yet a different challenge occurs in this regard.  Suppose you live in a location where access to Facebook is blocked so going to http://www.facebook.com gets shut down.  So you find a viable proxy (not easy) and you send your request to that proxy – http://mynewproxy.com – and through that proxy you get access to Facebook.  This works and is how people overcome service provider censorship.

The problem is that you and 20,000 of your friends all use the same URL – http://mynewproxy.com – and your service provider, who is monitoring traffic at a global level, sees a large amount of traffic going to http://mynewproxy.com so they check it out, see it is a proxy and then shut down access to that URL as well.  This process occurs constantly and even if you find a useful proxy, using most methods out there, it is only a matter of time before your access will again be blocked.

So what can you do?  Well IP Ghoster Local will provide a crucial first step in truly overcoming censorship.  Instead of using individual proxies or one of the many providers out there with a very limited set of proxy servers, IP Ghoster Local will enable you to connect to millions of proxies from all over the world.  In fact we have so many options that we randomly switch proxies within your selected region to further hide your online presence.  Now instead of you and your 20,000 friends going to one URL, you will be able to go to 20,000 different proxies.  Even if one is blocked, we can switch you to another safe, verified proxy server without interrupting your online experience.

By enabling you to choose your location and using a large number of proxy options we truly overcome censorship in a completely transparent manner.  IP Ghoster Local will launch in May and we invite you to check us out with a free trial.  Have fun ghosting!

 

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