Australia blocks popular torrenting sites and sees VPN use soar

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Australia blocks popular torrenting sites and sees VPN use soar

Australia has become the latest country to crack down on torrenting, with some unintended consequences for VPN usage figures in the country.

Earlier this month, the Australian Federal Court ruled in favour of a motion bought by various parties representing the movie industry. The outcome of that ruling was that access to a number of popular torrenting sites including The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt, SolarMovie, and any proxy and mirror services would be blocked across the country.

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At the time of the decision, many commentators noted that legislating to block torrenting sites was something doomed to failure as keeping up with mirror sites and stopping access via privacy tools such as VPNs in all but impossible. And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the number of other torrenting sites which will remain unaffected by the block.

VPNs were thought to be the most likely tool Australians would turn to get around the block, and since it has come into force this appears to have been the case.

Increased interest in VPNs

According to analysis by the TorrentFreak website the number of people in Australia searching for VPNs has increased markedly in the immediate aftermath of the blocks introduction.

They have looked at Google trends data for VPN searches in Australia which shows that the number of searches for VPN in Australia doubled instantly, with figures remaining consistently above average from then on.

TorrentFrek has also approached a number of VPNs directly to enquire about their experiences, and their feedback has borne out the findings from the Google data.

ExpressVPN’s David Lang said to TorrentFreak that his VPN had had “almost double” the usual number of visitors to their website from Australia.

Benjamin Van Pelt of TorGuard reiterated this saying that they had also seen a 100% increase in online traffic. He went further, stating that he believed this pattern was likely to continue. In anticipation of this, TorGuard have added additional bandwidth to their Australian data centres in Sydney and Melbourne to cope with the expected increase in demand.

Other VPNs including Private Internet Access and NordVPN also reported increases in traffic and subscribers from Australia in the wake of the block coming into force.

Growing VPN awareness

What has been observed in Australia as a result of the online blocking of torrenting sites is not unique, but rather emphasises the growing awareness of VPNs as a tool to get around Government efforts to curtail internet freedoms around the world.

Research conducted at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania analysed VPN interest data in the UK after a block on torrenting sites was introduced there.

They found, once again, that blocking such sites leads to an increase in people searching for VPNs and signing up with them.

Many readers are probably thinking these figures are to be expected, but that reality does still seem to be escaping legislators around the world who still believe that blocking internet sites and censoring online content is an effective way to stop people accessing it.

In this day and age, it simply is not. VPNs are an easy-to-use online tool, they are affordable, and they are effective. Even in countries with brutal online censorship regimes like China and Russia, VPN users can go about their business online freely.

As the Australian Government is about to find out, those people using torrenting sites are likely to be tech-savvy enough to master a VPN, if indeed they haven’t already. Which means it is unlikely that the block will stop anyone in Australia from torrenting for more than a few minutes.

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It is no coincidence that VPNs have a growing reputation as a tool to access an open, uncensored internet, and no amount of state censorship is going to change that.

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