Are you a Tumblr user? Do you live or work in, or travel to China often? If so, you’ll have found that, as of May 2016, the Chinese government has blocked access to Tumblr on the mainland. Since Tumblr is still a popular microblogging platform and social media website being used by individuals, companies, and even politicians, this can cause some serious disruption.
Luckily, despite China’s block, there’s a solution to get Tumblr unblocked again: VPNs. In this guide, we’re going to walk you through the specific criteria you should be looking for to choose a VPN that can get through China’s Great Firewall. Then, we’ll show you how to use your new VPN to unblock Tumblr. Finally, we’ll give you some background on the situation around China’s blocking of Tumblr.
- 1 Choosing the right VPN for the job
- 2 Unblock Tumblr With These VPNs
- 3 How to unblock Tumblr with a VPN
- 4 Why is Tumblr blocked in China?
- 5 Can’t I just use a proxy server/free VPN/Tor/etc.?
- 6 Summary
Choosing the right VPN for the job
When you’re researching VPNs, there are a lot of things to take into consideration, like encryption, network size, logging policy, etc. But when trying to pierce the Great Firewall of China, there’s one more question to ask: can the VPN get through it? Given that the Great Firewall is currently referred to as the most sophisticated firewall on the planet, the list of contenders gets shortened very quickly. All the VPNs we took into consideration can currently get through the firewall.
So, we put together our list based on these criteria and that singular question:
- Encryption – Not only does your VPN need to have encryption protocols strong enough to pierce the China’s Firewall, but it needs to keep you safe and anonymous on the other side. Each of these VPNs have military-grade encryption, wrapping your data in a secure tunnel of safety.
- Network size/location – To ensure you have a reliably strong, fast connection, your VPN needs to have a large enough network to support your activities. When you have more servers to choose from, you increase your odds of having a fast, secure connection that can get you through the firewall.
- Speed – Once you’re through, you don’t want your connection speeds to crawl, no matter what you’re doing – downloading, streaming, browsing, or otherwise. So you need a VPN that not only packs a powerful encryption “punch,” but maintains high speeds while doing so.
- Device compatibility – It’s unlikely that you’ll only being using the internet on your desktop or laptop, so your VPN needs to support a wide variety of devices and software. Each of the VPNs on this list has software for the major operating systems, like Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS – as well as others, like routers and browser extensions.
Unblock Tumblr With These VPNs
Here’s our list of the VPNs that can unblock Tumblr in China:
ExpressVPN is one of the fastest VPN providers on the market, giving you buffer-free streaming, fast downloads, and seamless browsing. Despite having 256-bit AES encryption to blast through China’s firewall, ExpressVPN remains lightweight with a single-click interface that stays out of your way. They’re based out of the neutral British Virgin Islands, so they’re exempt from the Five, Nine, and Fourteen Eyes surveillance agreements.
And with 2,000+ servers in 94 countries, you won’t have a problem finding one that can serve your purposes. ExpressVPN doesn’t log your traffic, DNS requests, IP addresses, or browsing history, either, so even if someone got ahold of their data (which is unlikely), nothing they have can be tied back to you.
ExpressVPN also gives you a split tunneling feature: you can pick and choose what sites and data you want to send through your VPN. This means you can keep stay connected to a server in Japan and still be able to access local websites without having to turn it off.
Check out more of the this great provider in our 2018 ExpressVPN review.
NordVPN has a truly massive network. At more than 5,000 servers across 62 countries, it’s the biggest in the industry – and it’s always growing. Alongside military-grade 256-bit AES encryption, DNS leak tests, and an automatic kill switch in case of accidental drops, NordVPN offers advanced features which make it the a top tool against oppressive governments like China. Some of these features include specialty servers, like a double VPN, which runs your data through two servers, adding an extra layer of protection. Or, the obfuscated servers feature, which hides the fact that you’re using a VPN. And if that’s not enough, there’s the Onion over VPN feature, which gives you impeccable security.
And if you’re not an advanced power user, NordVPN still has a lot you can sink your teeth into. There graphical server map makes choosing your VPN based on location a cinch. With no restrictions on bandwidth, you can also connect to as many as 6 devices at once, across a wide array of operating systems – so all your devices (and your family or friends’, too) can pierce the Great Firewall.
Learn more about this awesome provider in our NordVPN review.
PrivateVPN offers an impeccable balance between speed and security. With enough power (256-bit AES encryption) to bust through the Great Firewall, you still get fast speeds. You also get 80+ servers across 57 countries–a large enough network to always have access to Tumblr and the rest of the free and open internet. Rounding out the package is a serviceable logging policy that promises to cover your tracks online.
Plus, PrivateVPN has simple, easy-to-use interface that has you connected with a single click. If you’re like us, you love streaming, and this is where PrivateVPN really shines. With servers specifically geared (and labeled) for bypassing VPN bans, you’ll enjoy unparalleled access to Netflix, Hulu, and other big-name streaming services. Tumblr is similarly easy to access, all at the click of a button.
Recent versions of the PrivateVPN app feature a Stealth mode, which is highly effective at beating the Great Firewall of China (offered over OpenVPN, though L2TP is available and works well, too). Software is available for many platforms, like Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android, iOS, and even Router, Kodi, and Amazon Fire TV and Stick.
Learn more in our 2018 PrivateVPN review.
How to unblock Tumblr with a VPN
As alluded to earlier, China’s firewall creates the strongest layer of censorship in the world – so it’s very hard to access blocked sites, like Tumblr. Even many VPNs have trouble – but thankfully, there are some that strong enough to manage it. Each of our recommended services employ methods to get around VPN blocking in China, or nearly anywhere else.
Your VPN will create a secure and encrypted network that is created over your ISP’s connection. All your data is sent through this encrypted “tunnel,” allowing you to mask your location with another IP address and keep your identity hidden. This allows you to “project” your location elsewhere, so that it looks like you’re accessing the internet from outside of China. Yes, that includes getting back to crawling your Tumblr feed! Here’s how:
- Sign up with a VPN service provider. You can follow one of the links above to do that. Once you do, you’ll select a plan, then provide the VPN with your email address and best payment method.
- Once you’re signed up, download and install the application onto your device. If downloading to a smart phone, you may have to visit your operating system’s app store.
- Next, launch the VPN app and sign in with the credentials you created when you signed up.
- Now, connect to a server in a country outside of China that allows Tumblr.
- Depending on your provider, you may have to connect to specific servers, or else toggle an option for extra obfuscation against VPN blocking efforts. If you’re not 100% how to do this, make sure to get in touch with your provider’s customer support team BEFORE going to China.
- Finally, before you begin using your internet connection, test it to make sure your VPN is working. Visit ipleak.net in your web browser. Near the top, you’ll find two boxes with long strings of numbers. Underneath the numbers, it should say a country of origin. For example, if you connected to a VPN server in Japan, it should say “Japan” as your IP address’s country of origin. If it doesn’t, but instead still says “China,” then your VPN failed to connect you and you’ll have to try again. But as long as the country of origin matches the location of the VPN server that you connected to – you’re good to go and can now access Tumblr.
Why is Tumblr blocked in China?
Neither China nor Tumblr have given an official reason as to why Tumblr was blocked. However, there are two prevailing theories, both of which hold some weight.
Tumblr as a threat to order
In the recent past, organizers of protests in China used social media and messaging platforms to communicate. These protests were very disruptive during special sessions of the Chinese government, including full-scale riots. As such, China began blocking them to prevent protesters from being able to organize effectively. China has a now-longstanding tradition of blocking many websites originating in the west, especially as they become highly popular.
Pornographic material on Tumblr
Porn is illegal in China, which the authorities there enforce heavily. Tumblr does not filter any content, which means users can post just about anything, including pornographic material. It’s been estimated that s much as 10% of the most popular blogs on Tumblr contain adult material, which shows up on as many as 50% of users’ dashboards.
Can’t I just use a proxy server/free VPN/Tor/etc.?
There must be other options than VPNs for unblocking Tumblr, right? It’s true – there are. But you’ll hard-pressed to find one that provides the same level of security and convenience as a VPN.
Proxies work similar to VPNs – to a degree. Your information is sent through a tunnel to another server, giving your server that IP address. But, unlike a VPN, proxies don’t afford as much protection. A proxy may encrypt your data sent from your device to the proxy, but it doesn’t stay secure outside of this. You don’t get DNS leak tests or an automatic kill switch in case of drops, and if you go outside your browser, you lose any benefit. In other words, if you wanted to use the Tumblr app, you wouldn’t be able to in China.
There are free VPNs available, but there are many problems with them. First and foremost is simply a matter of power and logic. If many paid VPNs can’t get through China’s Great Firewall, how does it make sense for a free VPN to be able to? It doesn’t.
Second, “free” VPNs aren’t free – they still need money to survive. So there’s plenty of advertisements, at the least. At the worst, free VPNs are dangerous: they’ll log your activity, then sell it to 3rd-parties. Free VPNs can also operate as vehicles for such threats as malware, exposing you and putting you at a high risk identity theft and fraud.
Tor is a secure browser that makes your identity and online activity anonymous by bouncing your data through relay system. It’s a powerful network for staying safe and secure, but you can’t access it in China. To download it, you need to contact its developers to obtain a link where it can be obtained from a cloud service.
But once you do that, you’re still not in the clear – the Chinese government has been succeeding in blocking Tor. You’ll need to run a program called Obfsproxy alongside it, which hides the fact that you’re using Tor. This can be quite the process – it’s much easier and quicker to use a VPN.
Finally, Tor isn’t really set up to deliver a positive experience for modern-day internet usage. If you’re trying to view video, hi-res images, listen to audio, play games, or any other bandwidth activity, you’ll find the connection grinds to a halt. Indeed, Tor is mostly geared towards low-density informational transactions, such as uploading documents and conducting research you don’t want the government snooping in on.
Combining Tor and VPNs
However, if you’re truly worried about getting the best encryption and security, you cancombine Tor and a VPN in two ways:
- Tor over VPN; and
- VPN over Tor.
When you use Tor over VPN, you connect to your VPN provider, then enter the Tor network. By doing this, you negate the need to use Obfsproxy, because your data becomes encrypted by your VPN before entering Tor. This means that your ISP cannot see that you’re using Tor, giving you powerful security and privacy.
When you use VPN over Tor, you enter the Tor network first, then connect to your VPN from there. This process encrypts your data both when entering and exiting Tor, so not only is your data hidden from your ISP – as above – but your original IP address is also hidden from your VPN, giving you a double-layer of security. While we don’t advocate breaking the law, this combination makes it very useful for human advocacy and protesting work.
Whether you live or work in China, or are just planning a trip, being unable to access Tumblr can be frustrating. With this guide, you’ve got the material you need to make your decision on the best method to unblock Tumblr.
Do you live, work, or travel to China often? Have you experienced the Tumblr ban? Maybe you used a VPN or one of the other methods here to bypass it? Tell us your story in the comments section below!