The Government of Nepal has banned the popular Chinese social media site TikTok, resulting in an unexpected increase in internet traffic in the country.
Experts had predicted a drop in internet traffic after TikTok, which accounted for an astonishing 40% of Nepal’s total internet bandwidth usage, was blocked across the country.
But what was actually seen was an increase of 20%, according to data from Nepal’s internet service providers, which has been shared with the Kathmandu Post.
Why has TikTok ban sparked an increase in internet traffic in Nepal?
The speculation is that this unexpected increase in internet traffic has come about as a result of TikTok fans using VPNs to bypass the Government’s censorship and access TikTok anyway.
By connecting a VPN to a server outside Nepal, it is possible for Nepalese VPN users to evade the blocks on TikTok and access the service anyway. This is because a VPN masks a user’s true location and hides their real IP Address, allowing them to pretend they are connecting to the internet from elsewhere.
And because a VPN encrypts your internet data, Nepalese internet service providers who are tasked with enforcing the TikTok ban are instead unable to see what sites you are visiting and so cannot censor access to TikTok.
Sudhir Parajuli, president of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of Nepal, told the Kathmandu Post, “Internet traffic has increased by 20 percent after the TikTok ban, which may be due to the installation of VPN apps.”
He added that there were around 2.2 million TikTok users in Nepal and that if the majority of these were using VPNs to access TikTok, that would explain the increase in numbers.
Why has Nepal blocked TikTok?
The Nepalese Government took the decision to ban TikTok across the country last week. Their justification was that the app’s content was disturbing the country’s social harmony.
The decision is already subject to a Supreme Court challenge, which will decide whether the move is lawful or not.
But for now, according to Bijaya Kumar Roy, director of the Monitoring Division at Nepal Telecommunications Authority, “The two telecommunications service providers—Nepal Telecom and Ncell—and more than 30 internet service providers have already blocked TikTok.”
It is further reported that internet service providers like Vianet, Subisu, Classic Tech, and TechMinds, among others, have also blocked TikTok in compliance with the Government’s decision.
Sudhir Parajuli noted the rise in VPN usage and also an increase in people altering the domain name system (DNS) on Google and pledged to take steps to block both of these methods, too. It remains to be seen what he means by this and whether a potential ban on VPNs in Nepal might be forthcoming.
Is a ban on VPNs coming in Nepal?
Bijaya Kumar Roy did say, “We may have to block VPNs if people are using them to access TikTok as free VPNs threaten data security… It is possible to block free and risky VPNs, but blocking paid or authorised VPNs is unnecessary.”
The Kathmandu Post quoted a cybersecurity expert called Vivek Rana as saying, “There are open or unknown VPNs and authorised VPNs. Using open VPNs increases the risk of security breaches… Normally, free VPNs are not safe to use.”
“When a country bans certain apps,” he continued, “the companies promote free VPNs. The intent is mostly to collect users’ data… so a complete ban is counterproductive.”
It is a rare and welcome sight to see such an accurate portrayal of the risks posed by VPNs coming from officials such as these.
Our advice to Nepalese TikTok users
While VPNCompare would not support any VPN ban, it is definitely positive to see someone like Roy recognising the huge difference in user risk there is between free VPNs and Premium VPNs.
We would also not normally endorse Government censorship of social media sites either. But with a growing body of evidence supporting the view that TikTok is a tool of the Chinese Communist Regime, we can understand where the Nepalese Government is coming from on this one.
Such government blocks are usually ineffective, but the completely different impact this one has had on what would be expected illustrates this in stark terms.
If you are in Nepal and want to access TikTok, firstly, we would advise you to educate yourself on how TikTok is used by the Chinese authorities to propogate their political messaging and surveil their users.
But, we would also urge you not to use a free VPN to access TikTok since this will place your online data at even greater risk. Be sure to use a premium VPN like ExpressVPN or NordVPN instead. They are safe, fast, and dependable in a way that no free VPN is.