Is internet censorship thriving under the radar in the UK? And can a VPN help?

The United Kingdom’s reputation for online freedom has suffered significantly in recent years, in no small part due to the draconian Investigatory Powers Act, which came into power last year and created what many people have described as the worst surveillance state in the free world.

But despite this, the widely held perception is that the UK still allows relatively free access to the internet, even if they do insist on keeping records on what sites you are visiting. But how true, is this perception? In this article, we are going to take a look this question in more detail.

Online censorship in the UK

The UK likes to portray itself as the home of free speech and freedom of information and indeed, these rights are enshrined in both common law and the Human Rights Act. However, despite this, internet censorship appears to be on the rise in recent times.

Internet censorship comes in a number of guises in the UK. Some content, such as those relating to criminal acts such as drugs, terrorism, and child pornography are blocked at the behest of the British authorities. Few people would object too strongly to this.

However, internet censorship can also be implemented by the courts, as has been the case with many websites offering free streams of copyrighted content such as live sports and movies. ISPs too can, and do, block and filter certain websites.

The most recent, and perhaps most worrying, example of this is the restrictions about to be implemented on pornographic online content by the recently enacted Digital Economy Act. Astonishingly, this latest censorship will be enforced by none other than the British Board of Film Classification.

Censorship under the radar?

So, there is undeniably more online censorship in the UK than many people would like to admit to. But is this just the tip of the iceberg?

The censorship of one YouTube video suggests that it might just be. The video in question contains footage filmed by a trucker in Calais of refugees trying to break into his vehicle in order to get across the English Channel and into the UK.

This is a topic which has been widely reported in British media in the past, but in the wake of the Brexit vote and the removal of the so-called ‘Jungle Refugee Camp’, there has been strangely little coverage.

The video in question is entitled ‘Epic Hungarian Trucker runs the Calais migrant gauntlet.’ It is nearly 15 minutes long and does feature the drivers extremely forthright opinions about the refugees in question as well as some fairly blue language.

The sheer number of refugees trying to board trucks and the extreme measures they are taking is at time shocking too. But there is nothing in the video that should be illegal in the UK and indeed, little which hasn’t been shown by the British media in past. There is no obvious reason for this video to be censored in the UK.

Yet, if you try to access this video in the UK, you will find that it is blocked. This article is not the place to speculate about why such potentially politically sensitive content might be blocked from UK internet users. It remains accessible to users elsewhere in the world, albeit with some service restrictions in place.

And it is not alone. It doesn’t take too much research to uncover several similar videos which are also censored in the UK. The scale of the issue likely requires further research. But it safe to say, that such censorship is both unnecessary and potentially illegal as it as undeniably denying British citizens access to content which would feed an informed debate on some crucial issues.

How to access content censored in the UK

Such online censorship can, however, be easily bypassed with the help of a VPN. This is the same tool which is used in countries around the world where governments and authoritarian regimes try to control the internet access of their citizens.

A VPN works by redirecting all of your internet data through an external server. This server tags that data with its own IP Address rather than that associated with your internet connection. If the server in question is overseas, this means that the websites you visit believe you are in that country.

In the case of this YouTube video, connected to a VPN server located in any country other than the UK allows you to view it, even if your physical location is in the UK.

We put this to the test using NordVPN and found that it worked perfectly. Here’s how you can view this, and other YouTube videos censored in the UK using NordVPN too:

  1. Sign up for NordVPN by clicking on one of the links on this page and then choosing the right subscription package for you. It will only cost a few £ a month and all you need to do is follow the simple onscreen instructions to sign up.
  2. Once you have made your payment, download the NordVPN app onto your computer or mobile device. NordVPN provides dedicated apps for almost every device.
  3. Once it has downloaded, open the app and log in using your new account details.
  4. NordVPN will open onto its default map page. This allows you to select a VPN by country. Click on any country other than the UK and then click Connect.
  5. It should take no more than a few moments for the VPN to connect to your chosen server. Once it has, you can visit YouTube and all content censored in the UK should now be available. If, for some reason, it isn’t, just connect to another country and then try again.

David Spencer

Author: David Spencer

David is VPNCompare's News Editor. Anything going on in the privacy world and he's got his eye on it. He's also interested in unblocking sports allowing him to watch his favourite football team wherever he is in the world.

Away from writing, he enjoys reading and politics. He is currently learning Mandarin too... slowly.

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