Facebook is one of the most popular and ubiquitous social media platforms in modern history. The website boasts over 1.23 billion users from across the globe and, on average, 486,183 users access Facebook every minute.
Despite its overwhelming popularity, there are still countries that have significantly restricted or outright banned the use of Facebook. In extreme cases, totalitarian governments, such as those found in North Korea or Iran, have included Facebook in blanket bans on social media sites for political reasons.
Surprisingly, some more liberal countries and governments also restrict or filter traffic to Facebook. While you might expect such restrictions in Cuba or China, the governments of countries such as Bangladesh, India, and Vietnam have all banned Facebook at one time or another.
The non-profit organization Reporters Without Borders has even included countries such as the UK, USA, and Germany on their “Enemies of the Internet” list. This after they introduced legislation allowing them to filter internet and social media content for the purposes of “national security.”
So if you find your access to Facebook is being blocked, or you are worried your content is being filtered or monitored, how do you bypass these restrictions?
In this article, we will be looking at how and why Facebook is restricted, which countries restrict it and how you can use technology such as virtual private networks (VPNs) and proxy websites to overcome those restrictions.
Why Do Countries Restrict Facebook?
As with many social media websites, Facebook is often banned because it serves as a forum for social, religious or political thoughts that certain governments do not want their citizens to have access to. Restricting access to Facebook is generally, although not always, as a part of a more significant effort to limit access to the internet.
In the cases of countries like Iran and Pakistan, bans on Facebook can be religiously motivated. An excellent example of this is when the Pakistani Government blocked access to Facebook in 2010 in response to a global online competition to submit drawings of the prophet Muhammad being hosted on a Facebook page. Under certain Islamic laws, any depiction of the prophet Muhammad is strictly prohibited.
In countries such as Turkey and China, social media restrictions are put in place to prevent their citizens from accessing political ideas that are deemed dangerous to the state. Evidence for this can be seen in Turkey’s increasing restriction on free speech, news media, and social media after the failed coup in 2016.
How is Facebook Banned or Restricted?
Generally, Facebook restrictions occur in countries where the government has a large measure of control over the companies that act as internet service providers (ISPs). Once the legislation has been passed that allows the government to blacklist certain websites, those ISPs are typically required to block their customers from accessing prohibited content.
The governments of countries such as Turkey and the UEA exercise strict control over their ISPs. They require them to register with the government. These companies need a “certificate of activity” to do business. As part of this registration, they have to abide by the government’s censorship activities or face harsh punishments.
There are a number of ways in which an ISP can block traffic to a particular website. One of the most common methods is by blocking domains at the DNS level. Individual governments, such as those in Turkey and Iran, use more sophisticated technology such as packet filtering to actively prevent users from accessing prohibited content.
Which Countries Restrict Facebook?
All of the countries listed below have restricted access to Facebook at one point or another. In the more restricted states, such a North Korea and Iran, access to Facebook is completely prohibited. In others, such as Turkey and Cuba, the social media site isn’t officially blacklisted, although national ISPs do use connection throttling to make it very difficult to access.
Unsurprisingly for one of the most secretive and restricted countries in the world, the majority of North Koreans do not have access to the internet. Instead, the totalitarian state operates a heavily restricted intranet, known as the Kwangmyong. A 3G Network is available to foreign visitors. However, its users are heavily monitored and are restricted from accessing the vast majority of websites, including Facebook.
Iran initially banned Facebook after the disputed 2009 election in response to fears that both opposition movements and radical groups were using the platform to plan events and exchange messages. Much like North Korea, access to social media in Iran is heavily restricted. A large number of websites are blacklisted by the Iranian Government.
The government-sponsored censorship and surveillance initiative known colloquially as “The Great Firewall of China” has blocked access to Facebook since 2009. This initial restriction was put in place after the 2009 Ürümqi riots. The government suggested that the Xinjiang activists were using Facebook to communicate and plan the riots.
In an effort to appease potential foreign investors, access to Facebook is available if you are within the 17-square-mile free-trade zone in Shanghai.
Under Cuban law, only politicians, journalists, and selected medical students are permitted to access the internet from their homes. Anyone else looking to connect is forced to use licensed internet cafes. Asking $6 to $10 for an hour of internet access might not seem like much in some parts of the world. However, it is in a country where the average salary is around $20 per month. This makes access to the internet prohibitively expensive.
In addition, it has been reported that the government-owned ISPs routinely use connection speed throttling in order to restrict access to social media sites, with pages taking several minutes to load.
In 2010 the Bangladeshi Government blocked access to Facebook. This after satirical cartoons of government officials and the prophet Muhammad were hosted on a Facebook page. The ban has since been lifted, but the Awami-League led government continues to monitor access to the social media site. They target users who post “seditious or blasphemous content.”
Egypt initially blocked access to a range of social media websites during the attempted overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Since that time there has been no official blacklisting. However, the government does regularly use connection throttling to restrict access to social media. Moreover, they monitor internet usage and communication of those in Egypt for reasons of “national security.”
Since November 2012, Tajikistan has blocked access to Facebook. This restriction was put in place in response to negative comments posted online about President Emomalii Rahmon and other government officials.
In response to claims that social media were being used by anti-national and anti-social elements backed by the Pakistan Army and Pakistan intelligence agencies, India imposed a six-month ban on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites in the Kashmir Valley in 2016.
There have been several other incidences of Facebook being blocked in India including a three-day ban on Facebook, and range of other social websites, during the riots in Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh prompted by the arrest of Baba Ram Rahim Sing.
Pakistan banned Facebook in response to the same Facebook page, that promoted a global online competition to produce drawings of the prophet Muhammad, that caused Bangladesh to block access to the website.
Access has since been restored, but the Pakistani Government continues to block individual Facebook pages in order to filter out religious and political content that they deem to be harmful to their citizens.
In May of 2016, the Vietnamese government officially blocked access to Facebook for two weeks in order to limit communication between groups of protesting students. Although no more official bans have been issued, internet shutdown observatory Netblocks has noted several instances in which Facebook was not accessible in Vietnam during times of civil and political unrest.
How Can You Bypass Facebook Restrictions?
There are a number of ways you can bypass restrictions on access to Facebook, from simply changing your DNS settings to using the Tor Browser. However, by far the most effective method is to use a VPN service. Below you can find out how these methods might help you bypass restrictions.
Changing Your DNS Server Settings
One of the more simple, and therefore most commonly used, methods of restricting access to Facebook is for an ISP to filter traffic passing through its DNS Servers. By changing your preferred DNS server to the Google Public DNS, you can circumvent these restrictions.
To change your DNS server on a Windows PC, go through the following steps:
- Navigate to Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center, and select “Change adapter settings”.
- Right-click your active connection adapter and select “Properties”.
- Right-click the “Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)” entry and select “Properties”.
- Enable the “Use the following DNS addresses” option and enter 188.8.131.52 as your chosen DNS server address.
With a bit of luck this will be the only thing you need to do to circumvent your government’s restrictions.
The Tor Network
If changing your DNS server isn’t sufficient to bypass ISP restrictions on accessing Facebook, then the Tor browser may be your key to getting back on social media.
The Tor browser works by routing your traffic through a number of distributed relays around the world. The use of these relays makes it very difficult for governments or ISPs to monitor your activities.
The downside to the Tor browser is that the rerouting of your traffic significantly increases your latency. This slows down your connection and download speed. Consequently it can be difficult to use voice chat apps, such as Skype. Moreover, as we have seen, some countries do allow you to go to Facebook, but try to make this impossible by throttling your internet. The Tor browser will only slow you down further, making it truly impossible to go on Facebook.
VPNs represent by far the best option for accessing Facebook wherever you are in the world. A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, creates an encrypted connection between your computer and a range of servers around the world. This hides both your online activities and prevents ISPs from blocking your access to websites or content.
Using a VPN also has other benefits. The encrypted nature of your computer’s communication with the VPN server helps to protect you against cybercrime while your ability to route traffic through servers in a range of countries allows you to overcome geo-blocking and watch all your favorite sporting events.
Which VPNs Are Best For Accessing Facebook?
If you want to start using a VPN to gain access to Facebook, you need to make sure you pick the right VPN provider. You need a VPN that is trustworthy and has all the features you need to protect your data from a snooping government. Below you can find some of our recommendations.
NordVPN offers a fantastic package for a competitive price. Renowned for their fast and secure service, they have a large number of servers worldwide, offering you a range of options for routing your traffic.
Using Obfsproxy to avoid Deep Packet Inspection and operating a “no-logging” policy, NordVPN enables you to access all the content you want. You won’t have to worry about anyone monitoring you. If you aren’t entirely happy with their service, or you want to test it out before committing, NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Excellent protection and a large network of servers
- Nice and pleasing application
- No logs
With a reputation for being easy to install and use, CyberGhost’s software allows you to connect to their service from seven different devices, ideal for keeping up to date on your social media on all of your electronics.
With a considerable number of servers on offer and excellent connections speeds, CyberGhost will have you connected to Facebook in no time. If you aren’t 100% happy, they also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Very user-friendly
- High quality for a low price
- Torrents and Netflix possible
If you feel the need for speed, then IPVanish is the VPN service for you. IPVanish is widely regarded as one of the fastest VPN services around. They offers excellent connection speeds to their wide range of global servers.
IPVanish’s services are very reasonably priced. They stand by the quality of their system, offering their customers a 7-day money-back guarantee if you aren’t completely happy with your connection.
- Super fast VPN
- Torrents possible
- Netflix doesn't always work
For many people, social media platforms like Facebook are their primary way to keep connected to their friends and family. Having that connection taken away because of the country you are in can be very frustrating, not to mention somewhat isolating.
Unfortunately, many countries around the worlds still block or filter access to Facebook for both political and religious reasons. They simply cut their citizens and visitors off from social media connections.
Getting around those restrictions isn’t easy, but it also isn’t impossible. Reconfiguring your DNS server to the Google Public DNS server can get you around the most simple restrictions. However, for more pervasive filtering you’ll need to make use of the Tor Browser or a VPN.
While the Tor browser is an excellent way of browsing anonymously, it does have some drawbacks. Using its many relays to reroute your traffic does add to your latency. This means you’ll notice quite a bit of slowdown in your connection. Additionally, some countries who routinely restrict access to internet content, such as China, are making increasing efforts to find and block Tor outlets.
By far the best way to connect to Facebook in a restricted country is to use a VPN service. VPNs are easy to install, easy to use and come with a range of benefits that go beyond just allowing you access to one website. With a VPN in place, you can be assured that no-one is tracking your internet activities. The VPN’s encrypted connection means neither governments nor cybercriminals, will have access to your data.
If you’re a sports fan, or just want to watch BBC iPlayer from overseas, then a VPN is precisely what you are looking for. As your traffic can appear to be from any country, a VPN gets you round that pesky geo-blocking. This way you can watch your favorite show and update your social media without any restrictions at all.