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I want to test out some censorship evasion techniques and want to get a connect to some censored area, such as China or so. I purchase several VPN that claims to have servers in these countries, but when I dial in, I can still visit the websites that are known to be blocked so I suspect those VPNs are lying about their real location.

I wonder if there is a reliable way that can allow me to get an access to censored countries so I can test out some techniques.

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  • You can go there and that way you'll be on a censored network. I'm pretty sure they try to stop people from remotely entering it to stop them from trying to find ways around it.
    – user
    Mar 17, 2020 at 16:51
  • I'm not sure what you are looking for as an answer. You appear to have your answer: get a VPN that exists there.
    – schroeder
    Mar 17, 2020 at 18:58
  • Hi, Schroeder, I actually don't know, I wouldn't ask if I do. I expecting any means, such as a VPN that is known working, or some research project that simulates the environment, or something else that I never knew. I am curious for the Tor project, how would its developers test its functionality, do they have developers from all those countries being censored?
    – SamTest
    Mar 17, 2020 at 20:16
  • anecdotally, I've head that there are a lot of Chinese expats who VPN back inside China to get access to Chinese media content. I don't know of any myself, and I suspect they would be easier to find in Chinese language spaces. I imagine they wouldn't take kindly to you using them to test censorship though.
    – Jack
    Mar 17, 2020 at 23:37
  • Your assumption about them may be incorrect. They can have servers in such areas and still be able to provide open internet connection. They will just VPN-each-other to a server in an unrestricted area.
    – Overmind
    Mar 18, 2020 at 7:06

2 Answers 2

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Get somebody who is living there to provide a proxy or VPN to you. Note that this may put him at risk, so be sure to explain the risks to him.

There are already projects that do this, like ONII Probe, which provides an app to test and report blocked sites. Depending on what you are building, they may even have interest in cooperating with you or providing samples.

In addition providing VPN to you may be complicated as well, when the censors suspect that the VPN is providing unlimited access to him instead of limited access to you. But the problem with most commercial VPN is that they sell IPs that are in many geoIP databases labeled for a certain country, but do not always use data centers in this country for routing your traffic. And for data centers may apply other censorship rules than for home connections.

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A serious VPN provider has multiple servers spread across multiple countries.

Such a setup, in addition to the advantages of speed due to the servers being in proximity of the established connections, has the possibility to bypass nearly any restriction because the servers will have tunneling between them, so if something does not work/is blocked in a location where a specific server is, the connection can be tunneled into a server in an unrestricted zone and therefore the client can access the desired resource.

As example: let's say you have 2 servers - one in the US and one in China. US users may choose to exit the internet through the China server in order not to be localized by anyone watching while users from China may choose to exit through the US server to bypass a censored site.

To play around with something like this you can install Browsec extension for Opera browser and you can choose between 4 free proxies, each in a different country.

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  • I tried the extension on Firefox, I do have 4 countries to choose, but as you said, I am able to browse any website no matter which country I choose to exit. Is there anything different specifically for the Opera browser?
    – SamTest
    Mar 20, 2020 at 18:43
  • Opera also has a built-in VPN, but I did not test it in detail. There may be multiple other VPN-like extensions too.
    – Overmind
    Apr 6, 2020 at 6:08

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