On Friday, the government of Iraq blocked access to Facebook and Twitter. According to free independent newspaper Aliraqnet (http://aliraqnet.net/archives/28749), the blockade was put in place to prevent citizens from organizing anti-corruption demonstrations. To regain access to a free web, over 100,000 citizens have since turned to Hola, a wildly popular VPN service.
Citizen’s tweet reads: “Facebook service has been blocked in all of Iraq today. Follow link to download Hola to unblock all of the blocked apps."
The Iraqi government claimed that the aim of the blockade was to prevent ISIS from learning where the rallies would be, so they could not be targeted for terrorist attacks. While this may be a valid reason, often restriction of web access for seemingly citizen-centric reasons have led to censorship of the citizens’ basic rights.
In the hours following the social media blockade, Hola experienced a massive surge in downloads of its app.
Citizen’s tweet reads: “Facebook has stopped working in Iraq today!! But Hola VPN did the job.”
“Access to information should be a basic human right, and yet governments continue to restrict their citizens’ Web access,” said Ofer Vilenski, CEO and co-founder of Hola. “Hola’s P2P technology lets people help people to remove barriers and makes the web worldwide again.”
The main reason masses of Iraqis turned to Hola is that unlike other VPN providers, Hola’s peer-to-peer (P2P) proxy technology makes the service free for noncommercial use.
While most VPN providers rely on expensive servers, Hola’s P2P nature does not, so there is no underlying cost of service. This is even more important in countries where the average family income would not allow the common citizen to use a VPN. Hola’s users surf the internet anonymously by securely routing through other users’ computers when these are not in use.
Since its launch in 2013, Hola’s service has been used by more than 82 million people worldwide. Earlier in May Facebook users located in Vietnam used Hola to access the social network, which had been blocked by the government to prevent citizens from rallying and demonstrating against it.