#GhanaElections: How To Access Social Media During Internet Blockades with VPNs

As Ghana goes to polls, the possibility for social media and the internet to be blocked is imminent. Here's a guide on how to by-pass the blockade and access the internet and social media. 

As Ghana goes to polls, the possibility for social media and the internet to be blocked is imminent. Here’s a guide on how to by-pass the blockade and access the internet and social media platforms.

Ghana goes to the polls on December 07, 2020, to elect a President and 275 Members of Parliament in the general elections. This will be the country’s eighth consecutive poll since returning to democratic rule nearly 30 years ago.

A total of 17,027,655 million registered voters are expected to cast their ballot at about 33,367 polling stations across the country.

The two front-runners in the crucial elections, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and former President John Dramani Mahama are under pressure to ensure violence-free polls while stimulating their strongholds for a higher turnout on the election.

The National Communications Authority (NCA) has pledged to keep the internet and digital communications tools accessible and open throughout the election period — and civil society is holding them to account.

Should the NCA change their mind and decide to censor/block access to the internet and social media platforms, below is a guide on VPNs you can use.

What are internet shutdowns and why you should take action?

Restrictions to Internet access are on the rise globally,[1] with frequent news of government-mandated disruptions of Internet access.

The intentional disruption of Internet-based communications, rendering them inaccessible or effectively unavailable, for a specific population, location, or mode of access, often to exert control over the flow of information is what is termed Internet Shutdown.

Driven mainly by political and national security concerns, state-ordered Internet shutdowns have become the “new normal” in many countries.

From Algeria to Cameroon, Benin, Egpyt, Ethiopia, Chad, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and most recently, Zimbabwe, we have witnessed governments instructing for the internet to be blocked thereby denying citizens access to information and social media.

Using VPNs to Unblock Social Media platforms

There’s a shining star for those living in the midst of blocked internet access known as a virtual private network (VPN). Anyone can use a VPN for less restricted internet access, including entry to blocked social sites, especially social media platforms.

Should Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and WhatsApp gets blocked during and after the elections, your best bet to unblocking them is through the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a security technology that allows you to access web content using a secure and encrypted connection. It provides a tunnel between the user’s device and the website/platform. Whenever you use a VPN to open a website, it first takes you to some other location or country where the VPN’s server is located.

From there it accesses the website and sends the information to you.

A list of Paid & Free VPNs for Social Media Blockade in Ghana.

Below is a list of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) that can be installed on your mobile devices to regain access to blocked Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and other social media platforms in Ghana. They’re ranked on the following factors:

  • Fast and reliable service
  • Robust security standards so your location remains hidden
  • A large number of server locations
  • Apps for Android and iOS
  • Easy to use

Paid/Subscription-based VPN Applications

1. NordVPN

NordVPN is a secure, fast and incredibly easy to use VPN which uses the industry-standard 256-bit AES encryption and OpenVPN tunnelling protocol (by default). Their server park is large, with 5300+ servers across 59 countries.

This makes streaming videos and accessing blocked content a walk in the park. Get NordVPN for as low as $3.71/monthly for a 2-year plan. Download and sign for NordVPN from NordVPN.com

2. SurfShark

Surfshark is one of the affordable VPN services with a ton of success in unblocking blocked services. It uses top of the line encryption and protocol options, featuring AES-256-GCM across both OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec.
With it “Camouflage Mode” the VPN’s activity is hidden from your ISP and this makes it difficult for them to detect it on the network. Surfshark is one of the best-priced VPNs on the market with plans as low as $2.49 per month. Download SurfShark from Surfshark.com

3. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is one of the most popular VPNs in the market, thanks to its wide network of servers and super-fast connections. You can get around geo-restrictions, stop ISP throttling, bypass government censorship, as well as use ExpressVPN to unblock Netflix US and other streaming services.
ExpressVPN primarily promotes hiding users’ IP addresses and encrypting their network data so no one can see what they’re doing online. ”One click and you’re protected,” the company says – and a gruesome bit of news, unfortunately, bears that claim out. Download ExpressVPN here ExpressVPN.com

Free/Freemium VPN Applications

1. TunnelBear — This VPN application allow you to connect to their VPN servers and browse securely from a number of locations. It offers 500 MB of data per month, which may be quite low but it could be sufficient if you aren’t a heavy user. Download it here – TunnelBear VPN

2. Hotspot Shield — Another free VPN application for iOS and Android devices. Apart from offering one of the fastest VPN servers, the app has support for more than 70 locations. Download it from here – Hotspot Shield

3. VPN by SurfEasy — This VPN application provides uses with freemium and premium VPN services on mobile devices. A guaranteed 500 MB bandwidth is allocated for the freemium version.

One the encryption it uses the OpenVPN protocol along with 256-bit military-grade encryption to protect your network connections. Give it a try here — VPN by SurfEasy

4. VPN Proxy Master — It comes with a nice and easy to use interface and connects you through whatever location it deems best for higher speeds, and stability.

It’s worth noting that the free version of the app lets you connect to a limited number of locations but you can unlock the VIP plan to get access to a lot of other locations. Check it out here — VPN proxy Master

5. ProtonVPN — Another trustworthy VPN app that offers decent features for Android. It uses 256-bit encryption and OpenVPN. The best part about ProtonVPN is that it gets unlimited data allowance although there are limitations to the free plan.

The free VPN plan limits access to only three servers (Japan, Netherlands & the US) on one device. Give it a try here — Proton VPN

Testing  Your VPN Application

Once you’ve settled on the VPN application you want, kindly visit their website or the app stores of your device, download and install it. Clear your cookies and cache to remove any lingering location identifiers.

Restart your device and open the VPN application, select a server outside Ghana or the country blocking the social media platforms. Wait until the VPN connection is established before accessing sites/apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and WhatsApp.

Your ISP/Telcom company won’t detect any changes to your network configuration and will grant access to those sites.

If you have used other VPN or Proxy apps to by-pass internet censorship, kindly recommend them in the comment section below and I shall update this post with it.

Award-winning Ghanaian technology blogger, Mac-Jordan shares insights and stories on African innovations, digital marketing, startups, tech entrepreneurs and helpful tips for starter entrepreneurs. Get in touch: mj@macjordangh.com or text: +233(0)544335582.

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