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ProtonVPN is illegally blocked in the UK

ProtonVPN is illegally blocked in the UK

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After months of inaction by Vodafone, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, we are making a public appeal to them to lift the ban on our VPN services or take a formal complaint to Ofcom, the UK’s telecoms regulator. Internet service providers (ISPs) have blocked ProtonVPN since early August, although the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), a related regulatory authority, has instructed that VPN services should not be preemptively blocked. These blocks have prevented many of our UK users from accessing our services for months. We were first notified of the ban through user complaints and reports on the block.org.uk website.

We have followed all appropriate channels in an effort to remove these blocks. We have repeatedly written and contacted these companies, asking for the ban to be lifted so that our UK users can access our services again. We even resorted to tweeting them to see if it would motivate them to take action:

However, despite our best efforts, these three did not act, forcing us to prepare a formal complaint to the regulatory authority.

block effect

The ban effectively means that if you are a Vodafone, TalkTalk or Virgin Media user, you cannot access the ProtonVPN website or app. If you try to open our site, you will see a message from your Internet Service Provider that they have restricted access to this site because it contains adult material. This ban applies to individuals who already have a ProtonVPN account and to potential new users.

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In most cases, users have to update their ISP parental controls to manually unblock our website and app. Our site and app being filtered by default by these ISPs is worrisome for two main reasons:

  1. These mobile service providers limit your access to privacy and security by preventing you from securing your Internet connection.
  2. Designating privacy and security apps as “adult content” is clearly inappropriate and inaccurate.

This excessive filtering of the internet, along with the UK’s Investigative Powers Act, is part of a worrying trend of British politicians trying to censor and censor the internet in ways that look more like tactics Russia, China or Kazakhstan might use.

Why are we banned?

In 2014, the UK government passed legislation requiring members of mobile and internet service providers to limit access to ‘adult’ websites by default unless the parental controls that govern a person’s internet connection are updated. This law aims to prevent minor users from accessing inappropriate materials such as gambling sites or pornography. While users are responsible for their own parental controls and can decide whether to activate or turn them off when setting up their account, the truth is that this option is often buried deep in the menu, and the Parental Controls option is pre-selected.

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ProtonVPN was mistakenly included in the internet filter made by ISPs. As per the BBFC’s guidance, VPN services should not be preemptively blocked, a ruling it has made time and time again.

How to access the ProtonVPN website

In most cases, users can update parental controls to unblock their connection. You can usually find this functionality in your Vodafone, Virgin Media or TalkTalk account settings. Unfortunately, it’s not immediately clear that this is an option, which leaves many people stuck.

However, we are concerned that there may be people who want to keep parental controls in place to limit their children’s access to inappropriate material, but who also want to protect their privacy with ProtonVPN. The solution cannot be to force users to choose between online privacy and protecting their children, especially when there is no adult or inappropriate material on our site or applications.

What do other mobile service providers do?

Quite a few UK ISPs take guidance from the BBFC on whether certain websites should be blocked. ProtonVPN has been BBFC whitelisted, which means we should be available on all ISPs. The BBFC also operates a mobile rating framework, which allows anyone who believes a website has been improperly blocked to file a complaint. Vodafone is one of the prominent participants in this regard. If you are a Vodafone user and wish to use ProtonVPN to secure your online activity, please send your resume to contentclassification@vodafone.com.

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There are a few other companies that make independent assessments of which sites to block. Some companies, such as EE and O2, inappropriately blocked us but restored access as soon as they were notified of the error. Virgin Media responded to our messages, saying that it does not “actively block” our site and that the parental filter is under user control. However, this leaves out the point that the BBFC has ruled that VPN services should not be subject to such a paternalistic filter. In comparison, Vodafone and TalkTalk chose to ignore the situation completely.

We are preparing our formal complaint and considering other legal actions. Obviously, we hope these three internet providers are doing the right thing. However, if we continue to stand up to the wall of silence, we will have no choice but to take legal action. To all our users who could not access our website due to these blocks, we thank you for your support and patience. We’ll restore your access to a private and secure internet.

i need it,
ProtonVPN Team

This is an archived copy of block.uk, showing blocks as well.

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