Saudi Arabia has one of least free Internet infrastructures in the world, fraught with censorship and security concerns. In fact, Reporters Without Borders ranked them 164 out of 180 countries in 2015, showing you just how little freedom of expression they have. They even went as far as calling them an enemy of the Internet back in 2012. To make matters worse, they don’t have too many competing ISPs, either. Their Internet infrastructure is composed of about 25 various ISPs that all route their traffic through a government controlled entity to enforce their surveillance and censorship endeavors.
Internet Censorship in Saudi Arabia
They facilitate their Internet censorship by maintaining two main lists to filter data based on immoral and religious reasons. While the definition of immoral content is somewhat subjective and poorly defined, they do censor pornography and child pornography like many other nations. Furthermore, they go on to censor additional content that relates to homosexuality, alcohol, drugs, abortion, and even sexual education. But one of the worst things about their censorship programs is that they try to censor content that would help inform and educate users about how to circumvent censorship.
In addition, they go as far as to censor a lot of social media content as well. They have what you might call a digital dress code, and social media content that shows people that are scantily clad or not fully dressed is blocked. In the past they have even blocked entire social media sites such as Twitter, although that ban has been repealed. You should also be aware that they censor content for religious purposes, and these reasons also spill over into the social media scene. Essentially they claim that they are trying to prevent their youths from being led astray, and doing so justifies their initiatives to filter and block content.
Any content that promotes other religions or other forks of Islam is deemed as offensive, and the government makes a great effort to ensure that this content isn’t available within the country. In addition, you’ll find that they block any content that criticize their government and religious practices. Making comments on social media sites or blogs that could be deemed blasphemous are a sure fire way to end up behind bars. One such example is a journalist by the name of Hamza Kashgari back in 2011 who was taken into custody for comments he had made about the Prophet Muhammed. These are among the most offensive comments that can be made and the punishment for these actions can be as harsh as the death sentence. The most frightening part, however, is that the Saudi Arabian government has made claims that they want to ban encrypted communications with services such as Skype and WhatsApp unless the government is provided with a way to decipher the encrypted messages – thereby rendering the encryption useless.
Last but not least, you need to know that the Saudi Arabian government blocks content and messages that speak out against their leaders and government. This doesn’t only include messages and content that speak out against moral decisions of their leaders, however, and can include any news or media coverage that portrays them in a bad light. For this reason, there are a lot of global news and current event websites that have been blocked.
The sands of the Internet are always shifting in Saudi Arabia, and you need to protect yourself with a VPN tunnel to ensure that the government as well as hackers can’t obtain your personal information. By encrypting your data with industry standard encryption algorithms, no one will be able to decipher your message and read your traffic. Understand that the government and the various ISPs will be able to see that you have established a VPN tunnel to encrypt your data, but it is not currently illegal or inadvisable to do so. And even though they can see you are encrypting your traffic, there isn’t a thing they can do to read your messages.
Due to their hostility, there likely isn’t a VPN service provider on the planet that would forfeit any information or logs to them, either. The only real way that they will be able to identify which servers and content you access is to trace your IP address. However, a VPN will make this impossible by masking your address. Just be sure that you don’t write any incriminating messages or ‘like’ or ‘share’ content from social media accounts that identify yourself. A VPN tunnel can hide your traffic, but once you sign your name to a message on a social media site, there is little you can do to evade the government unless you remove that message. It seems that some of the VPN service provider websites have been blocked in the past, but you can access them if you use a friend or relative’s VPN account to sign up for their service. In addition, you can pay with BitCoins to remain truly anonymous if that is your wish. With that said, let’s take a look at the best VPNs for Saudi Arabia.
VPN for Saudi Arabia – Top Picks:
ExpressVPN is our first pick for users located in Saudi Arabia, and they have servers spread out in 100 locations in 78 countries around the world. They allow each user account to connect one computer and handheld device per account, and the quality of their service is phenomenal. Saudi Arabian users will be able to take advantage of the speed and reliability of their VPN connections, and they also have a 30-day money back guarantee. Though they do cost more than every other provider on this list, their monthly cost is well-justified by the quality of their service and their 24/7 customer support.
CyberGhost is a provider with a strong commitment to privacy and security. It also offers an incredible selection of servers to ensure that you can bypass restrictions in Saudi Arabia. There are over 5000 servers available in CyberGhost’s network. The provider supports top encryption as well, which ensures that your information remains private at all times. CyberGhost also has affordable plans and its no logs policy will give you peace of mind as it means that there are no records kept of your activities.
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VyprVPN is our third pick for Saudi Arabia because of their zero-logging policy and their geographic proximity to Saudi Arabia. It is highly unlikely that any VPN service would give money to the Saudi government, but some people still fear wiretapping scandals in foreign countries. VyprVPN is owned and operated by their parent company, Golden Frog, which is based out of Switzerland. They offer plenty of geographically close VPN servers to connect to, and they even provide a free trial. The free trial isn’t fully featured, but it will give you the opportunity to test their service in Saudi Arabia before you make a decision. Lastly, understand that they have 700+ servers in 50 countries, so you will have plenty of connection options to choose from.
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Private Internet Access is our fourth pick for users in Saudi Arabia, and they have 3,100 servers in 24 countries around the world. They have one of the highest capacities out of the other providers due to their sheer number of servers, and they improve upon other services, such as ExpressVPN, by letting each account connect up to 5 devices per account. They, like most other providers, use the latest and most advanced encryption standards with their VPN connections, but one of the reasons people love their service is because they are one of the cheapest on the market without sacrificing quality. You can get PIA VPN’s service for as little as $3.33 per month.
Surfshark is a comprehensive solution to overcome censorship and protect your online traffic. All the plans include advanced features such as Whitelister, CleanWeb and Multihop. Thanks to the technology supported by Surfshark, users in Saudi Arabia can get around the restrictions and enjoy freedom. The provider has servers in over 50 countries and it has two key modes that will help you to reclaim your freedom in Saudi Arabia: No Borders and Camouflage. Combined, these two modes ensure that you can overcome restrictions, without letting others find out that a VPN is being used.
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