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Why VPN Access Is So Important & How It’s Helped Give A Voice To Millions

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

Back in the mid-90s, Microsoft invented the Virtual Private Network, also known as the VPN. This breakthrough technology was developed so that remote employees could securely access their work network. Since then, VPN use has reached the consumer masses, allowing expats around the world to connect to a private network and access the web they know and love from back home.

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But the benefits of a VPN go far beyond content access, extending into such philosophical issues as human rights and freedom of speech and expression. VPN technology has given a voice to millions. Here’s how.

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How Does a VPN Work?

What is a VPN?

A VPN functions very much like it sounds. It allows you to set up a completely private, secure connection to another network, generally in another country. This enables you to browse the web as if you were in that country, while also creating an encrypted tunnel for your data so it can’t be intercepted by snoopers, hackers, and third parties.

Initially used as a way for employees to remotely and safely access their office network, consumer VPNs make the same benefits easily available to anyone, on any device.

Generally when you connect to a consumer VPN, you can select from a wide range of international servers and change your IP address — essentially a string of numbers that identifies your device’s location on the web.

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When you connect to an international VPN server, your actual IP address is masked and one of the VPN’s IP addresses is what faces the world, mimicking an IP address of the country you’ve selected, and that’s what allows you to experience the web as if you were actually sitting in your location of choice.

VPN Benefits

The major benefits of a VPN are four-fold and include the ability to: bypass online geo-restrictions and access otherwise restricted content and sites; protect your personal data from hackers and snoopers over unsecured Public Wi-Fi networks; conceal your digital footprints from government agencies, advertisers, and website owners; and last but not least, avoid online price discrimination to save considerable money on flights, rental cars, and software subscriptions.

VPN usage became especially popular in 2013 after the well-known Snowden leaks. Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee, leaked classified NSA documents that revealed the agency’s extensive internet and phone surveillance.

For many of us, VPN benefits are undoubtedly invaluable. But for some, these benefits are essential — especially for citizens living in closed, highly censored societies.

Online Censorship Throughout the World

Over 65 countries around the world censor the Internet to some extent, and according to The Freedom House’s “Freedom on the Net” 2015 report, the level of Internet Freedom is steadily declining.

The Great Firewall of China

China is the most notorious example. Commonly known as the Great Firewall of China, China’s vast web of Internet censorship is among the most extensive in the world. The most popular and beloved social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, YouTube, and Instagram, are completely blocked.

In addition to social networks and social networking apps, the world’s leading search engine, Google, along with its many helpful utilities like Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Drive, is also unavailable. So is Duckduckgo, a search engine that doesn’t track your online activity.

But even if you’re on an approved search engine, many terms and keywords are still censored. For instance, spiritually-related topics like Falun Gong and of course, topics related to controversial political events such as Tiananmen Square are completely off limits.

Ironically, even some terms which could be potentially harmless like ‘jiang,’ which means river, are banned due to their association. Jiang is a common surname which happens to be tied to the rumours about the death of Jiang Zemin, former General Secretary of the Communist Party of China.

Along with social networks, popular search networks and specific search terms, international new sources, like the New York Times, and a number of photo and file sharing sites, like Dropbox and Flickr, are blocked as well. China’s Great Firewall is so restrictive that China’s Great Firewall inventor, Fang Binxing, was forced to use a VPN to bypass his very own creation when he gave a lecture on Internet safety.

Twitter Silenced in Turkey

But China is certainly not alone. In Turkey, apps and sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and YouTube have all been blocked at one point or another.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has even gone so far as to say that he is “increasingly against the Internet every day.” In March of 2014, when discussing Facebook and YouTube to a rally of supporters, he stated: “We will wipe out all of these.”

Two weeks later, prior to local elections and following the leak of potentially incriminating audio recordings, Twitter was blocked for several hours. One week later, YouTube was blocked as well.

Then in April of 2015, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were all blocked after photos of a prosecutor that was taken hostage and killed by militants began circulating on social media. The government demanded these networks remove these photos, and shortly after they complied, the sites went back online.

Most recently, social network outages occurred during both the Istanbul airport terror attack and military coup.

twitturkey

In the case of the airport attack, the Turkish government maintained the blocks were for “national security and public order.”

Mother Russia’s Rutnet

Russia is no friend of Internet freedom either. To more effectively censor, the country’s controversial blogging law requires bloggers with more than 3,000 readers to register with the authorities and publish content under their real names. In May of 2015, international sites and social networks, including Google, Twitter, and Facebook, all came close to being blocked for their refusal to hand over the names of bloggers and remove content the Russian General Attorney deemed to be “extremist.”

Prior to this, in April of 2014, Facebook, Gmail, and Skype came close to being banned due to the country’s “anti-terror” data snooping laws, which threatened to block the services unless they stored data on Russian soil.

The Roskomnadzor, the Russian government’s top Internet regulator, is very sensitive to several topics of choice including: political protest, profanity, drugs, suicide, “gay propaganda,” and extremism. Because of this, pages like Reddit, GitHub, and Wikipedia have all been temporarily blocked. Youtube has also been in hot water. The entire site was almost blocked temporarily after hosting unauthorized copies of local Russian TV shows.

VPN Access & Freedom of Expression for All

In the face of online censorship, VPNs have proven to be a powerful tool for providing invaluable freedom of expression.

Fighting for Democracy: Uganda 2016 Elections

In February of 2016, the Ugandan presidential and parliamentary elections took place. This was a highly anticipated election for many who hoped to end the oppressive 30 year run of 71-year-old president Gen Y. K. Museveni and his National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.

But when citizens took to the polls, they discovered that their access to social media services, including Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp, had been completely cut off.

According to Museveni, these were temporary measures to stop people from “creating trouble” and “telling lies.”

Left with no access, many Ugandans turned to VPNs. Over the course of the four-day ban, nearly 1.5 million citizens downloaded VPN software — 15 percent of the internet-using population.

With 77 percent of the population under 30 years old, Uganda is a country with the youngest population in the world, and so it’s no surprise that social media, and the lack thereof, played such a pivotal role in this election.

On social media, citizens were able to express their views regarding the corruption and unjust practices surrounding the election that included the deaths and arrests of innocent people, the use of tear gas, and the complete absence of ballot papers and boxes in certain locations. The hashtags #UgandaDecides and the satirical #MuseveniDecides began trending on Twitter.

Although Museveni was ultimately declared the winner, with just over 60 percent of the vote, young Ugandans were victorious in their own right. Their determination combined with VPN technology allowed them to bypass unjust censorship, speak out, and exercise their right to freedom of expression.

Protecting the Environment: Protests in Vietnam

On May 16th of this year, the Vietnam government shut down Facebook and Instagram as dissidents tried to protest an environmental disaster that caused millions of dead fish to wash up on shore.

Citizens believe the disaster was caused by the Vietnamese government and Taiwan’s Formosa plastics, specifically the wastewater with toxic discharge coming from the company’s steel plant. Meanwhile, Formosa denied wrongdoing and the Deputy Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources claimed the fish deaths were caused by toxic algae bloom or industrial waste.

In an effort to speak out and protest, hundreds of people poured out into the streets to protest in cities including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Nha Trang, and more. They often used Facebook to organize the protests — hence the social media block.

Following suit, VPN providers experienced a surge in activity from Vietnamese users. One free proxy service, Hola, reported 200,000 Vietnamese users turning to their service over the course of one weekend.

For Vietnamese civilians, VPNs played a remarkable and pivotal role in their ability to speak out against environmental injustice and advocate on behalf of the natural world.

The Freedom to Communicate in Brazil

You know all those very useful calling apps you use to stay in touch with loved ones while you travel, or save on your phone bill? Well, you’d be surprised just how many countries censor and block them completely.

VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) apps, like Skype, Whatsapp, and Viber, are or have been blocked in numerous countries including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Pakistan, Egypt, and even Brazil — a country considered to be much more open and more moderate when it comes to Internet freedom.

Whatsapp has already been blocked three times in the country. The latest block took place on July 19th, but fortunately lasted only several hours. One block, however, in early May, took place over the course of 72 hours. Judge Marcel Mai Montalvão of the Sergipe state ordered the block as pushback after demanding Whatsapp turn over chat records related to a drug investigation. Yet Whatsapp, which now offers end-to-end encryption for 100 percent of the messages on its service, maintained they don’t keep such data, nor would they be able to decrypt the messages even if they did.

The result was a ban that had an immense impact on the larger Brazilian public.

JanKoum

Whatsapp is hugely popular in Brazil. In a country of 200 million people, it is the second most used app with over 100 million users, many of whom had to turn to VPNs or other encryption apps, like Telegram, to continue their normal communications.

The Fight for Freedom of Expression: #UnblockTheWeb

Certain VPN providers, recognizing the power of their platforms, have stepped up to the plate to advocate, fight for, and offer freedom of expression and speech. SaferVPN is one of them.

“Shortly after we founded SaferVPN one of the first emails we received was from a mother from Azerbaijan, ” said Sagi Gidali, Co-Founder and CPO of SaferVPN. “Her son was murdered in the army. She expressed to us that without our service she wouldn’t have been able to fully access the web to tell his story.”

“Thanks to the VPN,” said Sagi, “she was able to bypass strict online censorship and express herself freely.”

This got the Co-founders of SaferVPN really thinking about the value of their service and how they could make a greater change. So, together with the human rights crowdsourcing platform Movements.org, they established #UnblockTheWeb, an initiative to offer free VPN service to activists and dissidents who need it most.

Most recently the partnership provided much needed online anonymity and freedom to a coalition of online bloggers writing on behalf of cultural freedom and secularism in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, countless bloggers, atheists, and secular freethinkers have been the target of brutal attacks and murders by Islamic extremists. The need for such individuals to be able to speak out and express their views safely is absolutely essential.

“We realized we could offer much more than a premium service that allows expats to access their favorite streaming entertainment from back home — we could also serve the greater good with a service that has some really crucial benefits and value. Now, in the effort to further social justice and human rights, we see the very real impact of our technology.”

Want to join us in the fight for freedom of online expression? Get involved with the cause at Unblock The Web.

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Fact Checkers & Big Tech Censorship Are Tearing Apart Society

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

Journalist Laurie Clarke published an article in the British Medical Journal examining hundreds of millions of pieces of content that Facebook has removed in an attempt to stop ‘covid misinformation.’ As a result of censorship, we are seeing a breakdown of important dialogue. Here is our deeper written analysis of her piece.

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The Quantum Eraser Experiment: What Happens In The Present Can Change The Past

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CE Staff Writer 7 minute read
Image: Shutterstock

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    At the quantum scale, what we do in the present can impact what happens in the past. This is shown through what's known as the quantum delayed choice choice, or quantum eraser experiment.

  • Reflect On:

    Why are factors associated with consciousness directly intertwined with physical material matter at the quantum scale? What does this mean when it comes to our physical material world in relation to our thoughts, perceptions, feelings and emotions?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

One of the founding fathers of quantum theory, Max Planck, who is often credited with originating quantum theory – a feat that won him the Physics Nobel Prize in 1918 – once stated: “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as exiting, postulates consciousness.”

Fast forward to today and there are a number of experiments in multiple fields showing that Planck was right. Consciousness is fundamental and it is directly intertwined with what we call physical material matter. You cannot explain consciousness in terms of the existing fundamentals like space, time, mass, and charge. As a result, the logical thing to do is postulate whether consciousness itself is something fundamental to the existence of reality.

A classic experiment used to examine the role of consciousness and its relationship to matter is the quantum double slit experiment. In this experiment, tiny bits of matter (photons, electrons, or any atomic-sized object) are shot toward a screen that has two slits in it. When there is no measuring device placed at the screen, the tiny bits of matter act as a “wave” and creates an “interference” pattern on the other side where a wall is placed to catch the pattern. Because there was no measuring or observation device used to see what slit the matter went through, we cannot know what path it took. When the pattern on the wall is examined to see what path it took, it represents a wave of possibilities, meaning the matter (particle) went through both slits, and one slit, and interfered with itself, which should be physically impossible. Welcome to the wacky world of quantum physics – anything and everything is possible.

The kicker is, when an observation device is set up to observe what slit the particles go through, the particle then only goes through one, thus collapsing the wave pattern and forming a pattern that is representative of the particle only going through one slit. In other words, the behaviour of the matter changes when we decide to measure  or observe it, the particles act as they are aware they are being watched. 50 percent of the time the particle will go through one slit, and the other 50 percent of the time it will go through the other and form a two slit pattern, just as if they were balls lobbed through one slit or the other.

Observations not only disturb what has to be measured, they produce it…We compel (the electron) to assume a definite position…We ourselves produce the results of the measurement. (M. Mermin, Boojums All the Way Through: Communicating Science ina Prosaic Age (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 1990, referenced by Dr. Dean Radin, From A paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Physics Essays explaining how this experiment has been used multiple times to explore the role of consciousness in shaping the nature of physical reality

If this isn’t already mind-altering enough for you, one physicist, John Archibald Wheeler, pondered what would happen if we don’t interfere with the photons on their way through the slits? What would happen if we didn’t set up a measuring device to observe what slit the matter went through, and instead, what if behind the back wall there were detectors? One detector is focused on each slit, and just before the particle lands on the screen after it has passed through the slit device, the detectors are pulled away. When no one could detect which slit the photon had gone through, there was a wave pattern, but when the detectors were in place, there was no wave pattern. Similar to observing the particles before they went through the slit. No observation produced an interference pattern, and observation formed a one line, one slit pattern.

If they collapse to a state of particles from a wave at the moment of detection, after they have gone past the slit device, this means that even though they went through the slit unobserved and should produce a wave (interference) pattern, the very act of observing, still, instantly transforms them into particles and collapses the wave function.

This begs the question, how could these detectors interfere with something that had already happened? It would mean that what happened in the present changed the past. The very act of detecting the particles after they go through the slit determines how they went through the slit, either as a wave or as particles. How is this possible?

Like the quantum double slit experiment, the delayed choice/quantum eraser has been demonstrated and repeated multiple times. For example, physicists at the Australian National University (ANU) have conducted John Wheeler’s delayed-choice thought experiment, and the findings were recently published in the journal Nature Physics.

In 2007 (Science 315, 966, 2007), scientists in France shot photons into an apparatus and showed that their actions could retroactively change something that had already happened.

“If we attempt to attribute an objective meaning to the quantum state of a single system, curious paradoxes appear: quantum effects mimic not only instantaneous action-at-a-distance, but also, as seen here, influence of future actions on past events, even after these events have been irrevocably recorded.” (source)

To make the experiment easier to understand, Wheeler used a cosmic scale explanation. Imagine a star emitting a photon billions of years ago, heading in the direction of planet Earth. In between, there is a galaxy. As a result of what’s known as “gravitational lensing,” the light will have to bend around the galaxy in order to reach Earth, so it has to take one of two paths, going left or going right. Billions of years later, if one decides to set up an apparatus to “catch” the photon, the resulting pattern would be an interference pattern, as explained above in the double slit experiment. This demonstrates that the photon took one way, and it took the other way. A “wave” of possibilities, but the way it took has not been defined.

One could also choose to “peek” at the incoming photon, setting up a telescope on each side of the galaxy to determine which side the photon passed to reach Earth. The very act of measuring or “watching” which way the photon comes in means it can only come in from one side. The pattern will no longer be an interference pattern representing multiple possibilities, but a single clump pattern showing “one” way.

What does this mean? It means how we choose to measure “now” affects what direction the photon took billions of years ago. Our choice in the present moment affected what had already happened in the past.

Below is a great video of Wheeler explaining.

My mind is blown just writing this article, I can’t stop thinking about it and what it could possibly mean, and how factors associated with consciousness are, in more ways than one, intertwined with what we perceive to be our physical reality. I recently published an article regarding consciousness and how it might be fundamental to the creation of our physical material world. You can read that here if interested.

“The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.” ― Nikola Tesla

Why does all of this matter? Because it’s one of multiple experiments showing a strong connection between consciousness and physical matter. What does this mean at the classic physics scale? What does it mean with regards to the way we think, feel, perceive? What does it mean when we are talking about solutions to problems we are facing on our planet? If human consciousness could be so fundamental with regards to the ‘creation of our reality’, why aren’t we talking about it more? What impact would changing the way we look at our world have on the human experience? What would happen if we started to see things in a different light?

We tend to believe in our culture that we are beings where everything in our world is happening to us, as opposed to us being intimately connected to everything in our world. How might that knowing change the nature of our choices?

Dive Deeper

Click below to watch a sneak peek of our brand new course!

Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

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Dr Byram Bridle Speaks For 100 Colleagues Afraid To Share Science About COVID Vaccine Concerns

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CE Staff Writer 2 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Dr Byram Bridle and two other physicians spoke at a news conference on Parliament Hill about their experience being censored or harassed as a result of sharing their medical opinions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Reflect On:

    Do we as citizens truly want our scientists and physicians to be silenced and censored?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

Why are scientists and experts in this field scared to share concerning science regarding COVID vaccines? Just ask Byram Bridle, a viral immunologist from the University of Guelph who recently released a detailed, in-depth report regarding safety concerns about the COVID vaccines. The report was released to act as a guide for parents when it comes to deciding whether or not their child should be vaccinated against COVID-19. Bridle published the paper on behalf of one hundred other scientists and doctors who part of the Canadian COVID Care Alliance, but who are afraid to ‘come out’ publicly and share their concerns.

Bridle has stated about the Alliance,

In fact the reason that we (Canadian COVID Care Alliance) exist is sad. We exist because we’re like minded in the sense that we all want to be able to speak openly and freely about the scientist and medicine underpinning COVID-19, and we don’t feel safe to do it  anywhere else other than within our own private group, where we feel safe.

Below is our detailed report on the news conference held on Parliament Hill on June 17th, 2021. It was organized by Canadian MP Derek Sloan who has received hundreds of concerned communications from Canadian citizens about the censorship of scientists. Bridle and two other physicians spoke at the conference.

A recent article published in the British Medical Journal by journalist Laurie Clarke has highlighted the fact that Facebook has already removed at least 16 million pieces of content from its platform and added warnings to approximately 167 million others. YouTube has removed nearly 1 million videos related to, according to them, “dangerous or misleading covid-19 medical information.”

The more important questions to ask are: who is deciding what’s misleading? Who decides what’s false?

Some of the most renowned scientists and expert in this field have been subjected to this “fact-checking,” and they’ve been outspoken about how much of this fact-checking is flat out censorship. You decide.

To note: HealthFeedback.org, a fact checker, has attempted to refute some of Bridle’s claims. You can read more about them here.

 

Dive Deeper

Click below to watch a sneak peek of our brand new course!

Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

Click here to check out a sneak peek and learn more.

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