The study, which looks at global perspectives on online censorship experiences from the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Russia, Norway and Sweden shows large segments of people in each country do not trust the information they find online, suspecting censorship is at play.
Due to pandemic-induced stay-at-home orders and increasing political activism, online activity across the globe has reached an all-time high in 2020, with Akamai revealing a 30% increase in global internet traffic and Ofcom reporting that British adults now spend an average of four hours a day online. And as more connections take place digitally, many people are cautious of the ways censorship may be impacting their ability to gather accurate, real-time information.
TunnelBear’s recent survey found that nearly half (45%) of respondents in the seven countries surveyed do not trust the integrity of information they find online. In fact, two in five (44%) people globally report that they, or someone they know, have experienced internet censorship, with 58% of Brits claiming to have experienced, or heard of someone who has experienced, online censorship in the UK.
Globally, two-thirds (69%) of respondents believe online information accessed in their country might be censored, with over one-third (35%) reporting they believe a significant amount of news is censored in their country. Conversely, 32% of UK respondents admit to never having considered whether this could be the case.
According to the survey, over one-third (39%) of respondents believe they face political censorship, as governments and political parties suppress content to avoid upheaval or embarrassment. This number jumps to nearly half (44%) in the US.
As respondents become more cautious of potential censorship, three in ten UK adults (28%) confirmed they would begin using a VPN if there was hard evidence of regulators censoring the internet. In fact, a further 11% of UK respondents claim to always use a VPN today. However, over one in four UK consumers (27%) are not familiar with the technology – and therefore, would be unlikely to use one.
Says Justin Watts, head of engineering at TunnelBear:
“While consumers are increasingly aware of and wary about internet censorship in the UK and globally, they also need to understand how to combat such intrusions on their freedom. At TunnelBear, we are passionate advocates for a free and open internet. Through our latest technology and recent anti-censorship initiatives in countries like Iran and Venezuela, we intend to help everyone access the most accurate and updated information available.”
TunnelBear is a virtual private network (VPN) that allows users to browse the web privately and securely. It secures browsing from hackers, ISPs, and anyone that is monitoring the network.