Ways to circumvent the internet shutdown in the Democratic Republic of Congo

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The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo blocked social media sites beginning at 12 am on Monday, December 19 — despite strong statements condemning the move by the United Nations, governments, tech companies, and civil society. The #KeepitOn campaign, a coalition of more than 100 organizations from nearly 50 countries devoted to fighting internet shutdowns, urged the government to rescind the block order, and implored telecommunications companies operating in the DRC to take measures to respect human rights.

Below is advice from Access Now’s 24-hour Digital Security Helpline for people trying to circumvent an internet shutdown. The list begins with basic recommendations and then provides more complex solutions that apply in different scenarios.

Remember: this is general advice, and it may not fit your particular circumstances. We’re here to assist you through the helpline if you need it. Here’s how to contact us.

In addition, as we note below, in some countries using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or other circumvention tools may be illegal.

Browse securely


This is the secure version of the HTTP protocol used to access websites, and sometimes the encrypted version of a website may not be blocked.

HTTPS Everywhere is a Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension that ensures you visit the encrypted version of a website, whenever such version is available.

Are all versions of the website blocked?
Check if both mobile and regular websites are blocked. For example, you can visit http://twitter.com and http://m.twitter.com, the mobile version of Twitter. Censors that block websites or web pages usually work from a blacklist of banned websites, so you can use anything not on that blacklist.

Circumvention Tools

Web-based proxy tools

Web-based proxy tools can help circumvent censorship. Basically, the users route their HTTP requests through a different computer (the proxy).

Note: web-proxy users must be careful, since there are bad proxy servers capable of rerouting and modifying requests for malicious purposes. Never use or trust a proxy server that no one has ever heard of. And even if you receive the proxy from a trusted partner, play it safe and do not pass on any private information, specially if it is not encrypted.

Website: http://proxy.org/

Psiphon is an award winning circumvention system that uses a combination of secure communication and obfuscation technologies.
Compatible with Android 2.2 and up.
Works on Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 (desktop).
Website: http://www.psiphon3.com
User guide: http://www.psiphon3.net/en/user-guide.html

Lantern is an open-source software application for desktop and mobile n internet proxy tool designed to provide you with access to the open internet. Lantern is unique because it uses peered connections as a source of internet connectivity when servers are unavailable.

Available for Android, Mac, Windows, and Linux.
Website: https://getlantern.org/

Virtual Private Networks

A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your device and a server somewhere else in the Internet . All of your traffic is then routed through this tunnel, protecting you from adversaries that might want to tamper or block your traffic in the way. Although your traffic will be encrypted, the VPN provider can keep logs and records of your online activities,  therefore it is important to trust the VPN provider you use. This site compares many different VPN providers and can be useful when selecting a VPN provider.

Bitmask is a client-side VPN that uses Riseup and Calyx VPN servers.
Available only for Android and Linux users. Windows and Mac versions are expected to be released soon.

IMPORTANT NOTE: In certain countries, using VPNs or other circumvention tools may be illegal.

Tor Browser is an open-source software that protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world. This makes your communications difficult to trace, but also allows you to bypass online blocks.

At certain locations, where connections are slow, it might be difficult to establish a connection through the Tor network.

The Tor Browser Bundle lets you use Tor on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux without needing to install any software. It can run off a USB flash drive.

Please keep in mind that only the traffic from the Tor browser will go through an encrypted an anonymous channel. Other applications, like Skype or a regular browser, will not be routed through the Tor network, even if the Tor browser is running.

Orbot is an anonymity tool for mobile devices. The most recent versions of Orbot allow users to redirect all the traffic of their apps through the Tor network, using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on Android through the touch of a button.

Orbot is only available for Android.

Tails is a live operating system that you can start on almost any computer from a DVD, USB stick, or SD card. Tails uses the tor network to route  your communications, and includes several tools that help you protecting your privacy and anonymity. Because of the default usage of the tor network for your Internet traffic, tails will be useful to circumvent online censorship.

Interactive Guide: https://tails.boum.org/install/index.en.html (en Français: https://tails.boum.org/install/index.fr.html)