If you’re finding internet access to be a little frustrating in Bali as you can’t connect to all your favourite sites, don’t worry – we’ve got everything you need to know about censorship here.
And how to avoid it. 100% legally.
About The Strict Internet Censorship In Bali And Indonesia
The Indonesian government is very open about online censorship. It maintains that while internet usage is clearly essential for economic development, it is clearly not always in the interests of the people for all content to be available online.
It deems online activities such as pornography, LGBT content, gambling, and anti-Islamic content, in particular, to be against the public good, and thus, the Indonesian government has pledged to regulate the internet in the country to prevent the public from accessing content that might be harmful.
While there is a reasonable amount of censorship in Indonesia, including Bali, it is not the most censorious of countries. In the recent Freedom on the Net 2020 report, Indonesia scored 49. Almost halfway between “not free” at 60 and “free” at 30.
Social filtering is quite substantial, and there is selective filtering of political and religious content, too.
What Are Some Blocked Sites In Bali?
Officially, any site, including pornography, gambling websites, incitement to hate, threats of violence, doxing (or exposure of private information), infringement of copyright (such as PirateBay), false information, and any content that “degrades a group” is meant to be censored.
It’s also worth noting that Indonesia has a strict defamation law, too, and you can face a fine of up to 1 billion IDR (that’s around $111,000) and up to 6 years in jail for defaming someone online! Please note that unlike in the West, you can be found guilty of defamation in Indonesia even if you’re telling the demonstrable truth.
Thus, self-censorship on social media platforms is as much of an issue as official censoring of internet traffic is.
As of May 31st, 205, all internet service providers (ISPs) and cellular ISPs have been required to use an official national DNS (port 53).
This makes it very easy for internet censorship to take place at a national level.
Famous sites to have been blocked in Bali have included:
Temporary blocks on Reddit, Imgur, Tumblr and Vimeo after being accused of porn/nudity offences
Temporary blocks on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram after rioting in Jakarta
Temporary blocked Telegram until Telegram agreed to carry out its own internet censorship on behalf of the government
The most recent ban on July 21st 2023, meant that the Wikileaks successor, Distributed Denial of Secrets, was banned
And it’s not just sites that cause problems with regard to public morality that get banned in Indonesia.
Gaming websites, including EA’s Origin, Steam, and Epic Games, have all been blocked (though Steam has now been allowed to operate in the country).
As have PayPal, Xandr and Yahoo! (though Yahoo! ‘s ban was also reversed).
In short, internet censorship can be a real stumbling block for foreigners in Bali and getting the internet traffic that you’re used to often requires some technical trickery to achieve.
The Three Main Ways To Avoid Internet Censorship In Bali
There are three main ways that you can get around the block and access many websites and video streaming services that you might not otherwise have access to, and they are:
Use A VPN Server (Virtual Private Network)
A VPN, VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, is a clever way of encrypting all the traffic that passes between your machine and the outside world. It works by paying for access from one of the many VPN providers out there and using their server locations to form a direct link to your machine.
The server then accesses the internet on your behalf and passes all content via an encrypted algorithm to your browser, where it is decrypted on receipt.
There are some challenges to using a VPN, such as geo-blocked sites (where companies like Netflix require you to use their local entity rather than the one in your home country), but otherwise, it’s a good way to access content online without any censorship.
Use A Proxy Server
A proxy server is a similar service to a VPN server, but while it is cheaper, it’s less secure and worse. It’s often easy for the security forces to detect that you’re evading restrictions when using a proxy.
Now, if you’re only accessing your favourite shows, the odds are pretty good that nobody will care, but more sensitive information might be better off sent via VPN.
Use TOR Browser
The TOR project is a good way to ensure your browsing habits are kept anonymous, and because the network passes traffic from server to server before delivering it, it can help evade censorship.
However, Indonesian ISPs regularly block TOR, and it’s quite a technical way to access the web.
It’s not always the easiest thing to get to grips with, and because it’s frequently blocked in other countries, even if you’re used to using it at home, you may find it’s not much use in Bali.
What’s The Best Way To Access Blocked Websites In Indonesia?
By far, the easiest and most straightforward way to access the censored parts of the internet in Bali is to use a VPN.
VPNs offer greater levels of security, and while ISPs can and occasionally do detect them and block them, it’s much rarer than when you use a proxy or TOR.
In addition, while you do need to pay for most VPN services unless you intend to keep your browsing to a minimum, it’s not very expensive, and you can often get unlimited access to the web for as little as $40 a year.
We recommend that you avoid VPNs that are recommended heavily in internet forums and social media platforms because they tend to be the ones that they single out to block in the long run.
Instead, pick a VPN that serves your needs and try to keep which one you have chosen from the wider web. It will improve your chances of never having to buy another VPN while you’re halfway through a contract for one.
How To Use A VPN
Each VPN that you can use will have a slightly different method of working.
However we can offer some general steps to guide you, but if they don’t work – you will need to contact your VPN provider and see what they can do to help.
Firstly, download the VPN app that they provide for your computer or Android Device.
Most VPNs will cover all your devices for a single fee, and this is pretty important. You don’t want to have to pay again for your phone and any other computers in your home, do you?
You will then need to install the app and launch it. Log in to the app using the details you gave during the sign-up process for your VPN.
There will then be some sort of activation button for you to click. Depending on your VPN provider, you may also be able to select which country the VPN server is based in.
If you have any problems accessing a specific site, you may find that changing the server country resolves the issue for you.
Once the app has been activated, it will confirm it’s been connected after a few seconds. And that’s it! You can watch videos and access any website to your heart’s content.
You can now go back to your old browsing habits with impunity. No more censorship, and if you do find anything is censored, just switch servers, and you’ll soon be up and running again.
It’s worth noting that if you intend to access content that might be deemed a national security risk or highly problematic, you want to choose a VPN service with a no-logs policy.
That means that the government cannot subpoena the details of what you’ve seen because they aren’t kept by the provider.
What VPN Providers Work In Bali?
There are many different VPNs that you can access from Bali, and these include:
Nord VPN – a well-established provider with over a decade of experience. They have a large user base, which lets them constantly tweak and improve their product. With 5,000 servers in over 60 countries, it’s easy to access anything online. Geo-blocking is no issue, either. However, their desktop app is more complicated than it needs to be.
Surfshark – with 3,200 servers in 65 countries, including Indonesia, you can’t go wrong here. They offer excellent 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, wi-fi and leak protection and don’t keep logs. It’s easy to connect every device (even your router) to this provider. However, some of their servers are a bit slow.
ExpressVPN – this ultra-fast service has 3,000 servers in 94 countries (including local servers in Indonesia). They don’t keep logs and use a high-end 256-bit encryption algorithm. They have a full kill switch implemented. It easily evades geo-restrictions. However, it’s a bit on the pricey side, and if you’re an advanced user, it’s a bit short on fine control.
CyberGhost – this is a very user-friendly service that is ideal for beginners. It doesn’t keep logs and has 3,600+ servers in nearly 60 countries, including 8 locally. It can struggle with some geo-blocks, though and US Netflix is out of bounds.
How Do I Choose The Best VPNs For Use In Bali?
While there are free ones available, we recommend avoiding them when travelling abroad. They’re the most likely to be blocked and usually have very annoying restrictions placed on their use, and they may not preserve your online privacy properly either.
We’d recommend using these criteria to select a VPN:
Use a VPN that you’ve found online with good reviews or one recommended by a friend – don’t pick a VPN recommended in Bali social media groups
Use a VPN that offers the strongest levels of encryption – this is the best way to protect your data
Use a VPN that has no usage logs – you cannot be held accountable for browsing that there is no record of
Use a VPN designed to get around geo-blocking – if you want Netflix from your home country, make sure to pick a VPN where the users have confirmed that it’s easy to access your favourite shows
Use a VPN with local Indonesian servers as well as overseas servers – you won’t use the local servers, but having the option makes it harder to be accused of bypassing internet restrictions
Use a VPN with an app that works on every device you own – that means Windows, Linux, Android, and Apple if needed
Is There A VPN App For Your Phone?
Yes, there is almost always an app provided by your VPN host for use on your phone.
You may need to download the app directly from your app store, however, rather than from the VPN sales website. This is particularly true for Apple users who can only install apps from the Apple App Store.
Are There Other Benefits Of Using A VPN Server In Bali?
Yes, in fact, there are three good reasons to use a VPN in Bali and a fourth if you’re a digital nomad.
Because a VPN connection is an encrypted secure connection, it means your data is fully encrypted between your machine and wherever it needs to go.
This means you’re less vulnerable to data leakage and nefarious activity. A cheap VPN service is often one of the best ways to improve data security while you’re online.
If you use online banking, then you would probably prefer to ensure that your data is 100% secure, and a VPN will add another layer of security to keep your money in your bank account rather than in a hacker’s pocket.
Getting Better Deals Online
Some websites offer better deals to customers in different countries. This is particularly true for digital product providers.
A VPN allows you to effortlessly switch the country of the VPN server, and thus, the site sees you as in a different country!
This lets you shop around for the cheapest option on any product without having to fly to another country to buy it.
Mask Your Location
You can also mask your location when using social media and other services where you feel that your privacy might be compromised if they knew you were in Bali.
This can be very handy for digital nomads who are working overseas but don’t want their employer to know. They can get their internet connection to appear to be in their home country instead of in Indonesia.
However, we need to point out that we’re not responsible for digital nomads who get caught doing this – it only takes your VPN to fail for a minute or two for the IT team to start wondering where you really are.
How Can I Access Blocked Websites In Indonesia?
The best way to get access to content that has been censored online in Bali or Indonesia as a whole is to use a VPN.
This provides a private and secure means of getting to the rest of the web and won’t get you into any trouble with your ISP or the authorities.
Why Is Indonesia Blocking Websites?
Ostensibly, Indonesia censors the internet for national security and for the preservation of public morality.
However, there is a lot of evidence that suggests that censorship in Bali and Indonesia is also politically motivated.
As foreigners, it’s best not to pry too deeply into the business of a specific country that you are a guest.
As long as you can use a VPN and it remains legal to do so – a simple app frees you from the censorship regime here anyway.
Does Indonesia Censor the Internet?
Yes. Internet censorship in Bali and Indonesia is not as bad as it is in some countries (such as Iran, Afghanistan, etc.), but it is real and present, particularly if you are used to surfing the web in a less restrictive environment.
Are VPNs Legal In Bali? Are VPNs Illegal In Indonesia?
Yes, VPNs remain entirely legal in Bali and Indonesia as a whole. Occasionally, there will be a minor crackdown on VPNs here, and the “best VPNs” from the previous year will be blocked, but there will always be other VPNs that you can use.
Why Can’t I Just Change My DNS In Bali?
We like your thinking, and this used to be a very easy way to escape online censorship of your online activities in Bali. However, since the government mandated a national DNS, the only way to use a different DNS is to use powerful and often expensive tools to change the security layer. It’s easier, as always, to use a VPN.
Final Thoughts On How To Access Blocked Websites, Bali
It’s not hard to access the uncensored internet from Bali. In fact, as long as you have a VPN, it’s a doddle.
Unlike in China, VPNs are completely legal in Indonesia, and they don’t cost a fortune, either. Happy surfing!
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