BY WENDY HUNG
There is no celebrating for me as Facebook turns 10, because there is no social media access in Iran! No status updates. No photo uploads. You want to know the most irritating fact about traveling? Today, the website author and social media lover in me says: internet censorship.
Adding to the frustration, since the inception of Jetset Times almost a year and a half ago, there hasn’t been a single day that I haven’t looked at the website. The minute I checked into the hotel in Iran, however, I realized that not only could I not go on Jetset Times, I couldn’t access the back end either. Every click led me to a page in Farsi. Everything had clearly been blocked.
Giant panic mode! Thank goodness for the amazing team that I have, who are able to post the articles from thousands of miles away; crisis averted. But imagine when your life revolves around the business you love, running a website, and suddenly you can’t even look at it — and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. Internet censorship is my nightmare.
For most travelers, one of the most meaningful parts of traveling is the ability to share our moments with friends and family via social media. The power of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr relies on sharing instantaneously. When that privilege is taken away from a traveler like me – a bona fide social media addict – it’s like asking a shopaholic not to window browse for a week. Deathly brutal!
Internet censorship is typically enforced by national governments for moral and/or religious reasons, or to conform with societal norms. In 2006, a Paris-based organization called Reporters Without Borders published a list of countries that are “Enemies of the Internet.” It included countries that aren’t particularly popular in leisure travel: Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan…etc. The list also includes countries people often visit, but more on that later.
Interestingly enough, Reporters Without Borders has another list, labeled “Under Surveillance,” which includes: Australia, Egypt, Eritrea, France, India, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates. In my experience visiting many of these countries, I have never had any significant problems accessing my social media accounts and accessing the internet, but that doesn’t mean that “Big Brother” isn’t watching.
I’m sure many travelers experience similar situations; being cut off from a resource that you are used to relying on. I just wish I had known what countries were black-taped before I left, so that I could have better prepared. To prepare you for your next trip to a censored nation, I have compiled a quick go-to list of Internet-blocked countries. Out of all of the “Enemies of the Internet,” these 6 countries are the are most often traveled, and thus the ones to be aware of!
Insider Tip: if you decide to live in China or Iran permanently, you can set up a “jumping wall” system to freely access social media channels. If you’re simply on vacation or traveling for business, don’t expect to “Check In” or obsess over Newsfeeds in these following countries:
4. North Korea
5. Saudi Arabia