Italy's ChatGPT ban kick-starts surge of VPN downloads

A graphic showing off OpenAI's new GPT-4 AI language model
(Image credit: OpenAI)

Italians have been turning to VPN services following the decision of the country's data protection authority to ban ChatGPT over privacy concerns. 

Since the ban was implemented on April 1, leading VPN provider PureVPN has registered an unusual rise in traffic on its website coming from Italy.

The advanced AI-software developed by US-based OpenAI and backed by Microsoft managed to accumulate over 100 million users since its launch in November last year. 

"The advanced chatbot is just as popular in Italy as in other countries because of its ability to have human-like conversations. However, with Italians unable to access ChatGPT, many of them are turning to VPNs to circumvent the block," commented the VPN provider in a blog post.

PureVPN's statistics on Italy VPN downloads

PureVPN's statistics on Italy VPN downloads (Image credit: PureVPN)

Why has Italy banned ChatGPT? 

While ChatGPT is already banned by notorious authoritative governments such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, Italy is the first Western democracy to block the advanced chatbot.

The decision to ban the software came as the so-called Garante, the Italian data-protection watchdog, accused OpenAI of improperly collecting and storing Italians’ data and, consequently, breaching GDPR regulations. It also raises concerns as the software could expose minors to harmful content due to a lack of suitable age verification procedures

Authorities are giving OpenAI 20 days to address such concerns, after which is will be hit with a fine of up to 4% of its annual revenues, the BBC reported

OpenAI rejected such allegations, saying it's committed to protect people's privacy by working in training its AI systems to minimize the collection of personal data.

With Italians unable to access ChatGPT, many of them are turning to VPNs to circumvent the block


"We also believe that AI regulation is necessary - so we look forward to working closely with the Garante and educating them on how our systems are built and used," a spokesperson told the BBC, adding to look forward to making ChatGPT available in Italy again soon.

While Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini strongly criticized the government's decision, other EU countries including France, Germany and Ireland are looking further into the matter.

Italy's Garante is an non-governmental organization and it was among the first to warn about the potential breach of EU privacy regulations of China-developed app TikTok.

How a VPN can help

Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN is a security software that encrypts all the data leaving a device while spoofing people's real IP address location.

The latter skill is exactly what a ChatGPT VPN is of use here. 

By connecting to one of its international servers located where ChatGPT is not blocked - the best apps offer heaps of choices - users in Italy and elsewhere where the software is banned can access the advanced chatbot within seconds.

This might be useful also if you wish to use the AI-powered software while at work or school as it might be blocked on these networks as well.

To learn more on VPNs, head on our explainer about how a VPN works.  

Chiara Castro
Senior Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to