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How to access Facebook and Instagram from China

It’s not illegal – it just takes a little know-how.

Anyone familiar with travelling to China will surely be aware that it’s quite difficult to access Facebook, Google, Instagram, and other websites and apps that we use every day in Australia.

Through a variety of technologies, all internet traffic going into and out of China is inspected for sensitive material in a program known as Operation Golden Shield, or as some call it, the “great firewall of China”. Searching for sensitive terms will return a “blocked” page, and some websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google, are blocked completely.

It’s difficult to say exactly what is allowed and not allowed to be viewed by Chinese citizens, and it’s kept deliberately vague. The reasons for this are complex, but the important thing to remember is this: it’s not illegal to circumvent the great firewall of China, though you will need some know-how.

China is most concerned about citizens who threaten the stability of the government, but for tourists like you who just want to post holiday photos on Facebook and Instagram, this shouldn’t be a problem.

How to bypass the great firewall of China

If you’re lucky, you may find that you do have access to your favourite sites in certain areas. Some internet users have reported that some sites appear to be unblocked when accessed from international hotels and areas with high concentrations of foreign nationals.

To ensure you can show all your friends your adventures and holiday memories, here are two additional options for bypassing the firewall.

Use a VPN

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. VPNs are used by individuals and businesses all over the world for a variety of purposes. A VPN effectively tricks all the technology used in the Golden Shield to make your internet use look like it’s outside of China.

A personal VPN service generally cost a few dollars a month, and many are very easy to install on your devices, including phones, tablets and laptops. The “best” VPN services for China can change month-to-month, so make sure you do your own research, and get everything set up before you depart.

Use dedicated apps

There are also apps that will help you get around China’s Golden Shield. They use similar methods to VPNs, but are easier to use. Two of the more popular ones are Lantern and FreeBrowser, which were developed to allow Chinese citizens to access censored content. They work like a normal internet browser, but they should allow you access to all your favourite social networks. They’re free to use but they’re funded by donations, so service can sometimes be patchy.

An easy way to access Facebook isn’t the only thing you should sort out before you leave for China. Make sure that you’re covered by a good travel insurance policy as well. Discover Medibank’s great value travel insurance options today.

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