Pakistanis Turn to VPNs to Escape Government Internet Restrictions

Todd Faulk
Todd Faulk Senior Editor
Todd Faulk Todd Faulk Senior Editor

Pakistan residents have been purchasing virtual private networks (VPNs) after the government blocked most access to X (formerly Twitter) on Feb. 17. A VPN allows users to connect to servers in a different country, which means they can access social media and other platforms not permitted in their location.

The government’s move followed a post on X in which a government official claimed to have supervised vote rigging in the country’s contentious Feb. 8 national election. The election saw supporters of opposition leader Imran Khan win the most seats in parliament, beating out the military’s preferred candidate and handing the military — the behind-the-scenes arbiter of political power in Pakistan—a major political setback.

Media reports said VPN sign-ups surged by 131% on the day after X was blocked. Surfshark, a VPN provider in Pakistan, reported a three- to four-fold increase in the number of new Pakistani subscribers since January, and ExpressVPN said traffic to its website in Pakistan increased by 80% in the four days after the move against X.

The clampdown on Elon Musk’s social media platform is part of a growing pattern of internet restrictions in Pakistan and may portend a bigger crackdown on freedom of expression. The government had already implemented internet and social media restrictions five times in the weeks leading up to the election. One of these instances included a full internet blackout on election day.

“Pakistan’s latest clampdown on social media is a continuation of a broader trend of limiting internet access and undermining digital rights in the country,” Lauren Hendry Parsons, a privacy advocate for ExpressVPN, said. “It’s another example of a global decline in internet freedom as more countries have become more comfortable enforcing internet shutdowns.”

An American media company working for a Pakistani political party reports that the government is already attempting to block access to VPNs but with limited success.

About the Author
Todd Faulk
Todd Faulk
Senior Editor

About the Author

Todd Faulk is a Senior Editor at SafetyDetectives. He has more than 20 years of professional experience editing intelligence reports, course plans, and online articles. He's a freelancer who has produced work for a wide variety of clients, including the US Government, financial institutions, and travel and technology websites. Todd is a constant traveler, writer of his own travel blog, and avid reader of new developments in science and technology.

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