Australian internet users get better at skirting website blocks

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Australian internet users get better at skirting website blocks

But over half of users still give up when they reach a blocked site.

Australian internet users have become much more adept at circumventing blocked websites over the past year, new numbers released by the government show.

The numbers are contained in the fifth survey of online copyright infringement trends commissioned by the Department of Communications.

This year’s survey results are slightly more aged than usual, having been conducted back in March 2019, but with results released December 27 instead of in the middle of the year.

In the 2018 survey, "less than one percent" of survey respondents that encountered a blocked website were successful in circumventing it.

By March 2019, however, it was a different story. 

“It was reported that less than one percent managed to bypass the blocked website in 2018, this increased significantly to 16 percent in 2019,” the new 2019 report states.

The proportion of internet users that reach a blocked website and then simply give up trying to access the content it holds remained stable, as did the percentage that would try to circumvent any block.

An increasing number of overseas-hosted sites that house or point to pirated content are being blocked at the internet service provider (ISP) level under court orders.

Separately, the government also has a new regime whereby sites hosting or pointing to “dangerous material” can also be blocked.

Late last year, the government managed to pass amendments to its anti-piracy site blocking regime, making it easier to block proxies, mirrors or other copies of already-blocked sites that quickly sprang up.

However, the majority of users able to get around blocks do so using a virtual private network (VPN) or by searching for an unblocked alternative.

The next survey should provide a stronger indication of whether or not site blocking remains an effective anti-piracy tool at the government’s disposal.

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