Last week, we reported on how The Pirate Bay and a number of other torrenting sites have been blocked in Australia. Analysts have now confirmed what many have predicted would be a consequence of that step; VPN usage in Australia has shot up as a result.
The decision to block torrenting sites came as a result of a Federal Court ruling which went in favour of various parties representing the movie industry. The result was that access to The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt, SolarMovie, as well as any proxy and mirror services would henceforth be blocked in Australia.
At the time of the ruling, many observers noted that attempting to block such sites is often an exercise in futility. There are a number of relatively simple methods by which Australian users will still be able to access and use the sites in question; never mind the fact that there are hundreds of other similar sites they can use too.
Perhaps the most popular tool for evading such blocks is a VPN. Analysis by the website TorrentFreak which has looked at Google trends data for VPN searches in Australia paints a predictable picture.
In the immediate aftermath of the news about the blocks going public last Thursday, the number of searches for VPN in Australia doubled instantly. Numbers have remained consistently above average from that point on.
This data is backed up by the experiences of the VPNs themselves. David Lang of ExpressVPN told TorrentFreak that they had seen “almost double” the number of visitors to their website from Australia in the immediate aftermath of the decision.
Benjamin Van Pelt of TorGuard also reported an increase in online traffic of 100% and said he expected this trend to continue. They have taken the step of adding additional bandwidth to their Australian data centres in Sydney and Melbourne as a result of the ruling; which illustrates their confidence in the additional business they expect to receive.
NordVPN and Private Internet Access also told TorrentFreak they had seen increases in both traffic and sign ups from Australia.
Increased VPN awareness
This pattern of activity is not unique to Australia. In other developed countries around the world, there is similar data which shows that as governments seek to censor online content, more and more people will turn to VPNs to get around them.
Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania looked at the same data in relation to efforts in the UK to block access to Torrenting sites. Their research showed that one of the results of the action was to drive more and more people towards VPN services to get around the blocks.
People online are getting more and more tech savvy and the fact is that a VPN is a simple bit of kit that even the most novice of internet users can master with ease.
As online censorship and surveillance grow in countries all across the world, it is little wonder that the popularity of VPNs is spiralling. The Australian ban of torrenting sites is just the latest in a long line of examples of how when faced with censorship, people will look for another way.
VPNs remain the best tool for users to enjoy a free and uncensored internet, and the more states try to control internet access the more people will be using them.