Surge in VPN Adoption in Senegal Amidst Second Wave of Censorship

In Senegal, citizens have been turning to virtual private network (VPN) services in large numbers to bypass internet restrictions imposed by the government during periods of political turmoil. Proton VPN reported a 2,800% increase in sign-ups above normal levels since July 31, 2023, when internet access was restricted. The use of VPNs surged again after popular social media platform TikTok was blocked on August 2.

The Senegalese government’s internet restrictions were aimed at limiting the spread of “hateful messages” on social media, particularly during times of political unrest. The country has experienced two instances of internet shutdowns in the last three months as a response to protests and political turmoil.

VPNs have become a crucial tool for Senegalese citizens to access the open internet and circumvent government censorship. VPNs allow users to bypass geo-restrictions, access blocked apps, and censored content by masking their IP addresses and encrypting data.

Proton VPN’s Head of Product, Antonio Cesarano, mentioned that people in countries with a history of online censorship are increasingly signing up for VPNs in anticipation of potential internet blocks. Similar trends have been observed in other countries, such as Ethiopia, Turkey, and Pakistan, where citizens are proactively preparing to counter online censorship.

VPNs offer a way for citizens to maintain access to the free and open internet even when facing government-imposed restrictions, making them a vital tool for ensuring access to information and communication in such situations.