Avoiding Censorship: How Blocked Websites Stay Online and Accessible [MakeUseOf Explains]

Chris Hoffman 04-07-2012

accessing blocked websitesWe’ve been hearing a lot about website-blocking recently, particularly with anti-piracy 4 Ways Internet Piracy Can Be a Good Thing Let’s open up a can of worms and think about this for a minute: is online piracy really that bad? Read More  organizations forcing Internet service providers to block access to The Pirate Bay in the UK and elsewhere. However, when UK Internet service provider BT blocked The Pirate Bay, the block was only in effect for a few minutes before The Pirate Bay bypassed it.


How exactly do supposedly blocked websites like The Pirate Bay remain accessible to so many people, in spite of all the efforts to block them Your Guide to the International Web Sometimes the international Internet simply isn't worldwide. Freedom of expression and governmental censorship of the internet are roadblocks. This guide to the international web will help you get around them. Read More ? The answer lies in the way the Internet works How the Internet Works We can now access the Internet from our home computers, office, laptops and our phones. But many people still aren't entirely sure what the Internet is and how it really works. Read More .

How Websites Are Blocked

When you load a website – say, by going to – your computer contacts its domain name system (DNS) server and locates the numerical IP address associated with that website. The DNS server responds with the website’s IP address and your computer contacts the IP address. Domain names like and are human-readable shortcuts that DNS servers translate to numerical IP addresses.

Blocking can cut off access at the DNS level or block access to the website’s IP address itself. Your Internet service provider How to Handle a Copyright Infringement Notice From Your ISP Received a copyright infringement notice from your ISP but don't know why? Here's what you need to do next. Read More runs your default DNS servers, so it can modify them and point or another domain name to a “Blocked” page.

accessing blocked websites

There are several ways around this – you can switch your DNS server to an alternative DNS server that isn’t run by your Internet service provider (ISP), such as Google DNS or OpenDNS How To Get the most out of OpenDNS Read More . You could also visit the website’s IP address directly – for example, is one of The Pirate Bay’s IP addresses, so you can access The Pirate Bay by plugging this number into your web browser’s address bar.


Blocking can also cut off access at the server level. To prevent people from using the above methods to get around the blocks, ISPs can block access to specific IP addresses, preventing their users from communicating with the IP addresses entirely.

How Websites Bypass Blocks

If only DNS blocking is occurring, websites can tell their users to switch DNS servers or access specific IP addresses directly. Even if specific IP addresses have been blocked, a website can quickly add a new IP address that point to the website.

For example, after The Pirate Bay’s IP addresses were blocked, The Pirate Bay immediately added several new IP addresses that pointed to their website. While users could no longer access or, The Pirate Bay was now also available at

A Pirate Bay representative told Torrent Freak that “they can continue adding new addresses for years to come.” It’s like whack-a-mole – when an ISP blocks an address, a new one immediately springs up.


access blocked websites

Legal System Slowness

Compounding the problem for those who would block websites is the way the legal system works. The blockers often require court orders to block specific domains and IP addresses. Some of these court orders may allow the blockers – anti-piracy groups in the case of The Pirate Bay – to add new IP addresses to the block on short notice, while some do not. As some ISPs in the Netherlands responded when Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN told them to block The Pirate Bay’s new IP addresses – “we will do not comply without a court order”.

Even if all court orders allowed anti-piracy groups to block new IP addresses without going through the legal system again, court orders would have to be obtained in a variety of countries against a large amount of ISPs. On the other hand, The Pirate Bay can add a new IP address accessible to the entire world and circumvent the block in a few seconds.

Other Ways to Bypass Blocks

The Pirate Bay doesn’t even need to bypass the blocks itself. Pirate Bay users have a variety of ways to bypass the block 5 Ways To Bypass The UK Pirate Bay Block A recent UK high court ruling from a case brought by the British Phonographic Industry (the UK version of RIAA) means that The Pirate Bay is now inaccessible from many ISPs, with BT and remaining... Read More , including accessing The Pirate Bay through proxies or virtual private networks (VPNs) How To: Setup A Premium VPN Service For The Ultimate In Online Security [Windows] The online world is fast becoming a dangerous place. A premium VPN service is a small price to pay for the ultimate in online security, allowing you to both download what you wish and avoid... Read More , which “tunnel What A VPN Tunnel Is & How To Set One Up Read More ” the traffic to another ISP. From The Pirate Bay’s perspective, the user is accessing their website from another country without website blocking. The tunnel then passes the traffic in encrypted form back to the user – as the traffic is encrypted and the user isn’t communicating directly with The Pirate Bay, their ISP has no way of blocking this traffic.


In fact, The Pirate Party UK hosts a proxy that UK residents can use to access The Pirate Bay on ISPs where it’s been blocked. Tor How the Tor Project Can Help You Protect Your Own Online Privacy Privacy has been a constant issue with virtually all major sites that you visit today, especially those that handle personal information on a regular basis. However, while most security efforts are currently directed towards the... Read More , designed for accessing websites anonymously and circumventing government censorship of the web How To Quickly Check If Your Site Is Visible Behind The Great Firewall Of China The Great Firewall of China, officially known as the Golden Shield project, uses a variety of methods to block foreign websites that the Chinese government doesn’t like. The Chinese government doesn’t publish a list of... Read More , can also be used.

accessing blocked websites

The Streisand Effect

Word spreads about new ISP addresses and other ways to bypass blocks extremely quickly. When a website as big as The Pirate Bay is blocked, news 6 Live Professional News Streams You Can Watch Online For Free Watch what's happening in the world right now, without paying for a cable subscription. Several TV stations from around the world stream their English channels directly to the web, giving you access to what's happening... Read More stories spring up and alert users to the block and ways of getting around it. The block may actually increase traffic going to the blocked website as a result of the increased media attention and exposure.

This phenomena is known as the Streisand effect — named after Barbara Streisand, who, in 2003, attempted to remove photos of her house from the Internet. In response, news coverage about the incident resulted in a larger number of people seeing the photos. Similarly, people reading news stories about blocks of a website like The Pirate Bay may wonder what all the fuss is about and check the website out for themselves. News of the block actually increased traffic to The Pirate Bay.


Have you ever had to get around a block to access a blocked website? Do you have any other questions about how websites are blocked? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: M2Ys4U on Flickr

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Ali Khan
    December 27, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Really enjoyed the article, there are other ways to bypass the block. For example you can go to alternative websites like This is just a proxy that accesses and gets all of it information from the original piratebay. There are other lots of other proxies. Another way is to use google translate, just type in the first box, choose any language except English, and the language to translate to choose English.

  2. Peter Clarvis
    November 17, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    I'm so glad I discovered "Makeuseof" Am enjoying the articles tremendously.
    With the variety of subjects covered, who knows, maybe I'll also end up as a nerd.

  3. Srinivas N
    September 27, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Chris. Gr8 article. Very interesting trivia too.
    My question is how does DNS (Google or OpenDNS) keep track of updated IP adresses every now and then if websites try to change IP to bypass block.

    • Chris Hoffman
      September 29, 2012 at 11:54 am

      The website owners update their DNS records, and DNS servers pull from there.

  4. Erlis D.
    August 13, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Good article! :)

  5. Chris Hoffman
    July 15, 2012 at 12:30 am

    Wow -- just goes to show you it really does depend on how they implement the block, I suppose. Never would've guessed that would work!

    • Aloha
      July 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      Well I'm from India, and I'm interested to know which ISP you are using?
      For me, my ISP, BSNL, run by the government itself, have never blocked
      any website. I have been torrenting for years and will be doing the same for years to come.

  6. Muhammad Ahmad
    July 11, 2012 at 3:26 am

    I always use SecurityKiss , Its best choice. You can download the software and you can configure it as a virtual private network manually, It's free but limited to 300MB per day.

    • Chris Hoffman
      July 18, 2012 at 3:50 am

      Thanks for the recommendation! Seems like a decent free version.

      • Muhammad Ahmad
        July 18, 2012 at 6:49 am


  7. Chris Hoffman
    July 9, 2012 at 5:04 am

    Yup, it depends. Failing the IP address method, a proxy, VPN, or Tor should do it for you.

  8. 7987627e5cfdd26789fd0cac537539e7
    July 8, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    I don't really care about torrent sites but I do use file sharing for several reasons. A simple bypass is through OpenDNS. For flexibility, there's always VPN.

    • Chris Hoffman
      July 9, 2012 at 5:08 am

      Yup -- and if you don't care about speed, there's always Tor.

  9. amit
    July 6, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    we have nebero software enabled by the university administration which has limited the download speed and also blocked many websites is there any simple way to bypass that an enjoy unlimited downloading and surf any website we want to .....
    pls help asap......

    • iStoopKid
      July 7, 2012 at 12:09 am

      If you're on windows you could try free proxy or vpn software like Hotspotshield (which also will work on mobile devices), Tor, and Ultrasurf. There are countless other options. I do prefer Tor with the browser bundle but if you are trying to get on as fast as possible then use download ultrasurf The download is ~1mb or less and all you have to do is click the start button and you're browsing freely in a matter of seconds. I actually used it in my past 3 years in high school and it never failed. Just make sure you stay aware of updates because sometimes when ultrasurf launches a new update the older version will no longer work. Good luck and remember even though you can browse freely with this and tons of other free software, stray away from using personal info (just a bit of an extra security measure).

      • Chris Hoffman
        July 9, 2012 at 5:08 am

        Great advice, thanks! I've never used ultrasurf, but Tor is solid.

  10. Mark
    July 6, 2012 at 1:40 am

    When the UK courts blocked access to TPB I was surprised I could still get access - till I realised the block was only DNS based and I'd been using OpenDNS for years. If the powers that be are vaguely serious about censoring sites, they're going to have to try a lot harder than this!

    • iStoopKid
      July 7, 2012 at 12:16 am

      Yes, they shut the front door but leave the back door and windows wide open lol. They know what they're doing, at least that's what I believe. That's why I'm skeptical about the whole mass virus removal thing on monday or whenever that is. I don't believe that one bit.

      • Chris Hoffman
        July 9, 2012 at 5:05 am

        I believe they're just shutting down the servers that the virus is using. Infected people will just have to change their DNS servers back -- it doesn't remove the virus, just breaks infected systems' DNS settings.

    • Chris Hoffman
      July 9, 2012 at 5:07 am

      Yup, that's part of the reason DNS blocking is a bad idea -- people can use something like OpenDNS or Google DNS. If they forced OpenDNS to block The Pirate Bay as well, people would use other, shadier, less-trustworthy DNS servers.

      It's a bad idea to push people towards less legitimate DNS servers that could become compromised and redirect traffic to phishing sites. DNS shouldn't be tampered with (this was a problem with SOPA in the US, as well).

  11. shivam
    July 5, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    how do we know the ip address of a certain site such as gmail??

    • iStoopKid
      July 6, 2012 at 11:55 pm

      you could try opening a terminal or command prompt and typing "nslookup" without the quotes. for example I typed "nslookup" and it returned [Broken Link Removed] [Broken Link Removed] . all three worked and got me to twitter. strangely enough though it didn't work with makeuseof or other services connected to google, like youtube. Youtube just brought me back to the Google homepage. Also, there are many firefox add-ons that you can use that will give you the IP address of the page you go to so you can jot that down

      • Chris Hoffman
        July 9, 2012 at 5:01 am

        Yup, those are some great tips -- you can also try a website like if you don't want to use the Command Prompt or an extension. Select the Lookup option and enter the website's domain name.

    • Chris Hoffman
      July 9, 2012 at 4:59 am

      Yup, I saw that recently -- I knew it! Doesn't surprise me.

  12. Tony Alexander
    July 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Great one! Taught me a lot.

    • Chris Hoffman
      July 9, 2012 at 5:02 am

      Thanks, Tony!

  13. Ben
    July 5, 2012 at 9:01 am

    I did not know about 'The Pirate Bay'. Checking it out now. Thanks.

    • Chris Hoffman
      July 9, 2012 at 4:59 am

      Yup, see -- this is the Streisand Effect in action! Banning something makes people interested in it and spreads the news.

  14. Krishnapriya
    July 5, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Awesome, pirate bay is blocked in my country(Malaysia) too and to bypass it, I always used Tor or proxies. I never knew that it could as simple as using the IP address to bypass the block.

    • Chris Hoffman
      July 9, 2012 at 5:03 am

      Yup, depending on how the block is implemented, using the IP address will work! They may also block IP addresses, but that's more work -- especially with the Pirate Bay constantly adding new IP addresses.

  15. jessemanalansan
    July 5, 2012 at 5:59 am

    Good article! :)

    • Chris Hoffman
      July 9, 2012 at 5:04 am

      Thanks, Jesse!