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TikTok ban may lead to surge in VPN usage

People turn to VPNs as TikTok bans loom
(Image credit: XanderSt/Shutterstock)

As one government after another clamps down on Chinese applications such as TikTok, it appears that many people may be seeking out one of the best VPNs to try to circumvent existing or prospective bans. 

“We are seeing an increasing number of governments around the world attempting to control the information their citizens can access," said ExpressVPN vice president Harold Li in a press release last week. "For this reason, VPNs are used to access blocked sites and services by many worldwide.”

Privacy first 

India was the first government to institute a permanent TikTok ban in June as part of a crackdown on Chinese mobile apps following a Sino-Indian border clash in the Himalayas.

On Aug. 1, U.S. President Donald Trump announced a nationwide TikTok ban that would take effect within 45 days unless TikTok was sold to a U.S. company, citing concerns that TikTok might be used by the Chinese government to spy on users in Western countries.

But it seems like many people aren’t happy about potentially losing access to TikTok. ExpressVPN says it has seen “a sharp increase in web traffic,” with a 10% surge in the number of Americans accessing its website following Trump’s announcement about banning TikTok.

With a VPN, a TikTok user can make it seem as if she's located in a different country, possibly evading a national ban on the video-sharing app.

Global interest spikes

Regarding other countries that are thinking about banning TikTok or already have, ExpressVPN has seen traffic to its website grow in Japan (19%), Australia (41%), Hong Kong (10%), and India (22%). 

"In the case of TikTok in the U.S., we don't know how a potential ban may be enforced yet, and it may require users to jump through other hoops on top of using a VPN, such as removing their local SIM card," Li said. “Our team continues to track the situation closely so that ExpressVPN users can continue to protect their digital rights and access the free and open internet.”

“It’s interesting that access to a social media platform is the catalyst in forcing people to use a VPN rather than for security or protection purposes," ESET security specialist Jake Moore told Tom's Guide.

“This is typical for bypassing national boundaries but on the contrary, it does teach users about privacy and ups their security in the process," Moore added. "The convenience of security sometimes needs to be puppeteered by another mechanism in order to make the majority of the public move towards better protection.”  

Mo is eCommerce Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees privacy and security content, and his product guides help his readers find the best software and products for their needs. When he's not testing VPNs, you'll find him working on his classic car or plugged into a guitar amp.