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Sunday, April 21, 2024  
09 Shawwal 1445  

VPN usage surges in Pakistan amid continuous internet shutdowns

Social media platforms have been down multiple times since Jan 7
Close Up of Smartphone Display with Social Media Application Icons, Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, Pinterest, Tumblr - AFP
Close Up of Smartphone Display with Social Media Application Icons, Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, Pinterest, Tumblr - AFP

The demand and usage of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) in Pakistan surged significantly following the continuous disruption of social media platforms in recent months, Techradar reported.

Internet services, especially accessibility to social media platforms have been down on several recent occasions in the country.

The first such instance came on January 7 when internet users experienced slow or non-existent accessibility to X, formerly known as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

While the government was silent on the issue, Netblocks, an independent observer said that the disruption came as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was preparing to launch its election fundraising telethon.

Days later, internet users faced a similar issue on January 20 as PTI was holding its second online power show ahead of the Election 2024.

Quoting an official of VPN provider Proton VPN, TechRadar reported a steady increase in VPN users in the country in recent months.

“We have seen three VPN spikes coincide with internet outages clearly planned to disrupt online events organized by the Pakistani opposition party, PTI. This led to a 400% increase in sign-ups to Proton VPN in early January 2024,” Samuele Kaplun, VPN Lead at Proton VPN said.

According to Kaplun, the daily users were 40% higher on average than they were two months ago.

On February 8, the voting day, internet and mobile phone services were suspended once again in Pakistan as voters complained of facing communication problems due to an outage.

“Update: Real-time network data show that internet blackouts are now in effect in multiple regions of Pakistan in addition to mobile network disruptions,” NetBlocks said in a post on X.

According to Top10VPN, the demand for VPNs increased by 110% from February 5 ongoing amid multiple internet shutdowns.

While the demand for the VPN remained higher since the start of 2024 on the back of multiple social media shutdowns, VPN demand almost doubled on February 5 (around 96%) and spiked to 110% higher on February 7.

The recent outage was specifically related to X, which has been down intermittently in Pakistan for the last two days. The outage in the country started on Saturday night amid electoral fraud allegations.

“Live metrics show a new national-scale disruption to X/Twitter in #Pakistan amid escalating unrest and protests over allegations of election fraud,” a post by Netblocks read on X.

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