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Millions Of Indians Download VPN Apps As Internet Censorship Grows

The country has seen a five-fold increase to over 57 million VPN app downloads on Android as well as iOS devices.

Published
Tech News
3 min read
Android has a built-in feature for users to create VPN easily for their phones.
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Virtual private networks have been extensively used across the globe to access websites that are blocked or not permitted for various reasons. These tools have also made their way to mobile devices in the form of VPN apps that can be used on Android and iOS platforms.

And according to a new report, more than 480 million users downloaded various VPN apps across the globe in the last 12 months. Out of this, 75 percent of all downloads belong to Android (358.3 million) and the rest of 121.9 million were on iOS.

The headlining part of the report covers India and what’s been the impact of regular internet shutdowns or website censorship in the country, which has also increased compared to previous years.

The report from VPN review service Top10 VPN also mentions that India is only behind other countries like Indonesia and the United States in the list for most VPN downloads in the past year. Having said that, India does lead the charts for the fastest-growing market for VPN app downloads, with a 405 percent increase compared to next year.

These VPN websites and apps also come in handy to access porn as well, which accounts for a large chunk of content consumed by Indian users via mobile internet.

It also points out that 84 percent of all the downloads were free apps, with Turbo VPN being the top downloaded app. 

All this basically emphasises that censorship is becoming a mainstream issue, forcing people to resort to VPN apps to access various parts of the internet that aren’t available to the public.

Go to settings where you’ll see the VPN option
Go to settings where you’ll see the VPN option
(Photo: The Quint)
“As mobile internet users around the world endure the various effects of digital authoritarianism and become more aware of the value of their browsing data, it’s clear that VPN apps are an increasingly mainstream anti-censorship and privacy tool.”
Top10 VPN
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The publisher did also mention its report did not include VPN app downloads from users in China, even though many people over there do use VPN services to access products from other parts of the world.

We also get insights on reasons for a spike in VPN app downloads over this period. It says that between October and December 2018, app downloads increased 66 percent on average each month. These came in response to various issues: civil conflicts, local elections, killings of politicians by militant separatists, and, in particular, to control the flow of information.

Download VPN to Fight Internet Shutdown

This year itself, India has experienced 59 Internet shutdowns in the first six months, as shown in the tracker from Software Freedom Law Centre's (SFLC) Internet shutdown, and unsurprisingly, Jammu & Kashmir is leading the list of the affected regions.

In August 2017, the Ministry of Communications issued rules for shutting telecom services, and by extension, shutting down the Internet in India. According to the rules, the Secretary of Home Ministry has the power to issue an order to the Secretary of the Home Department of the state, in case of an order by Government of India, Medianama reported.

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The problem is that the Internet Suspension Rules do not specify grounds on which a state or central authority can order a blackout.

Enable the VPN to start browsing websites via a secure channel.
Enable the VPN to start browsing websites via a secure channel.
(Photo: The Quint)

According to this report in Quartz, Reliance Jio was said to be blocking specific sites, which strangely didn’t work with VPN apps either. The report, quoting a Reddit post from 3 January, said that websites like hide.me, vpnbook and few VPN apps on the Jio network didn’t open. Many users complained about how a telecom operator was blocking a website, especially with India strongly advocating net neutrality in the world.

With the situation not getting any better, expect the next report from the publishers to show India’s rise to the top of the list, shaming the country’s internet sovereignty and jurisdiction.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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