Study: YouTube has the most desired restricted content

  • Research explores what type of online service the world wants to access the most and why


     By ; Mohamed Shawky



    The things people search for on engines like Google, Bing, or Baidu can tell a lot about how they live. New research by NordVPN reveals that video content on YouTube is the most desirable to unlock.


    In total, 82.7% of internet users searching how to unblock certain online services  want to access YouTube, while 5.7% of all queries looking to circumvent blocks are about accessing the Google search engine itself.

    “As peculiar as it sounds, people are “googling” how to unblock Google. The motive is to look for and access information without the fear of punishment, especially in countries where internet censorship is part of the government’s agenda,” said Daniel Markusson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN.

    The second most searched query (6.2%) was how to unblock Facebook. Instagram (1.8%), followed by Reddit (1.5%), made the top-5 searches on the list.

    Why do people look for how to unblock YouTube and Google much more than other services?

    Youtube is the second most popular website as of August 2020, with one billion hours of content watched daily. “Not surprisingly, some video content is not available in certain countries due to copyright or censorship. This makes people look for workarounds,” says Daniel Markusson.

    When it comes to countries where the internet is considered less free, search queries about accessing Google lead the list. The search volumes of this query come right after YouTube in Indonesia (32%), Turkey (12.5%), and India (2%).

    What are the top 5 countries looking to unblock content on YouTube?

    First on the list is the US, amounting to 7.7% of all “unblock YouTube” searches.  The country is followed by India (6,5%) and Indonesia (5,3%).

    “The reasons behind attempts to access blocked content on YouTube might be notably different. The high search volumes in the US are the result of students trying to bypass rules at school, where bandwidth is often blocked for YouTube. On the other hand, internet users from India and Indonesia are either trying to overcome geo-restrictions imposed by content creators or bypass censorship,” notes Daniel Markuson.

    12 years ago Indonesia blocked YouTube on all ISPs for 2 days. There were also attempts to filter the X category content. Since June of 2018, Malaysia, which comes fourth on the list by “unblock YouTube” search volumes, has blocked 2,484 pornography sites.

    The number of attempts to reach YouTube content is the same in  the UK and the Philippines. The two countries made the top 5, making up 1.4% of all searches each. Interestingly, the UK is considered to have free access to the internet, while the Philippines’ internet freedom is known to be partial and censored.

    Whenever a government announces an increase in surveillance, internet restrictions, or other types of constraints, people turn to privacy tools like VPN.  “NordVPN observed a huge increase in inquiries from Hong Kong once its new security law was introduced. When Turkey banned social media, the interest in VPN also increased. But many also use the same tools under less worrisome circumstances. VPN technology provides access to a free internet, but users should respect copyright and intellectual property rights,” says Daniel Markusson.


    Methodology: NordVPN researchers used Google’s search term analysis tools to search terms including the keyword “unblock”.  Apart from global trends, search volumes were also checked by country. The analysis was based on search volumes in 30 days.

    Time frame: 15 June-15 July, 2020.

    Additionally, researchers looked at the Freedom on the Net report 2019 by Freedom House to list the countries considered to be the most censored.


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