UPDATE: This post is written by Cassie Phillips.
Your internet freedom is constantly under attack, and in many cases, you aren’t even aware of it. There are many programs and special interest lobbies looking to suppress your freedom of information, and it is vital to our society that it does not happen. Despite the many methods being attempted, the online community has ways of bypassing these methods in order to use the internet as it was intended.
Here are five things you should consider doing to maintain your freedom online:
Know More about How the Internet Works
While anyone can and should use the internet as they need to, there is a limit to your ability to protect yourself until you have a greater working knowledge of how the internet works at a more basic level. Other things that you should know about are networking and the processes of torrenting. You certainly should not torrent if you don’t want to, but you should know how it works. You should also know the many options that are available to you through additional programs and your base operating system.
While articles can be great for answering a single question or serving as a baseline, you will probably want to pick up a book from your library or read a full eBook on the subject at your next available opportunity. It is absolutely essential that you read recently written materials as well, unless you want to spend an hour learning the intricacies of floppy disk use and security. If you have any other specific questions about improving your computer skills, you can always ask a forum or an online community and many people will be happy to help you.
Once you know more about the internet you will be able to better notice when something is wrong or something is acting just ever so slightly out of place. That awareness will be a great tool to you.
One of the most popular ways that people use to circumvent government censorship and other organization interference and tracking is to use Tor.Toris an anonymity network that you first install on your device and then proceed to use as you use the internet. It will relay your IP address through multiple other users, masking your IP address so others will not be able to track you. While there are some disadvantages, such as the possible slower connection speed and some possible security risks, Tor is free and any advanced or curious users out there can feel free to take a look at the coding.
Get a Proxy
A proxy server is another extremely popular option that will let you mask your IP address via an alternate server. With this option also, no one will be able to track your activities online. It is also free, and there are a multitude of options out there for any platform you can think of. That being said, make sure you pick out a good one that is both easy to set up and not a piece of malware disguising itself as a proxy program or app.
Use a Virtual Private Network
A Virtual Private Network is a service which will allow the user to connect to an offsite secure server or servers with an encrypted connection that will act as a “tunnel” keeping hackers and onlookers out, especially on public networks. This encrypted connection is what for practical reasons differentiates a proxy server from a VPN and is what makes a VPN worth the subscription cost that is usually associated with it (most free VPNs are extremely low in quality). The way that they work allows users of a VPN to look like they are accessing the internet from a different country, meaning that regional blocks and regional restrictions are effectively useless.
For a great example as to how they have been used to keep online freedom alive in an oppressive environment, you will want to take a look at Australia. Australia recently passed legislation which will mean the blocking of nearly all torrent sites (if by this point already they aren’t already blocked), and this was perceived as a major attack on digital freedom in the country. When this happened, the use of VPNs in Australia skyrocketed, and the decline in torrenting was not nearly as much as hoped.
If you currently live in Australia or are planning on going anytime soon, I strongly suggest you follow suit and find a VPN. If not in Australia, I still highly recommend getting one as it is one of the best options you have for staying free online.
Be Politically Aware and Active
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to keep digital freedom alive is to stay both aware and become involved in the political process as it relates to net neutrality and digital regulation. Members of Congress and other political representatives listen, and if you live in a country where they don’t, then you should at least try to stay up to date so you can prepare yourself for any new laws or dictates that come out.
Try looking up your representative and see what their position is on issues regarding the internet. If they seem to hide their answer, write them a letter and ask for it. Check out their voting record to see if their actions match their words. Spread the word on social media if there is anything urgent or important that requires attention from voters. Finally, see if there are any local or online groups that you feel are right for you so you can find people who have similar ideals that you can talk to if you have a question.
Thank you for reading, and may you stay vigilant about online freedom so your internet usage remains free.