Last Updated on July 12, 2020 by Tom Shu
Surprisingly to me, one of the most frequently asked questions I got from my friends when I told them I was moving to Taipei was if Instagram or any other social media sites were blocked in Taiwan.
I’m Taiwanese American and I visit almost every year, so I have never thought twice about this topic, but I thought I’d write a short post to clear this up once and for all.
The short answer is Instagram is not blocked in Taiwan. The better answer is Instagram, along with the internet and the press is not censured at all in Taiwan. In fact, according to a 2017 report by statista.com, Instagram is the 4th most popular social network in Taiwan losing only to Facebook, Youtube, and Line.
This means you’ll have access to all your favorite websites, apps, cat videos, and TV shows if you ever visit Taiwan.
If you do visit though, please do try to see as much of the country as you can instead of gluing yourself to a screen all day.
Taiwan is a Democratic Nation
Did you know Taiwan is one of the freest democracies in the world? The freedoms and rights recognized in Taiwan are similar to what we have in the United States.
In its 2018 edition of their annual report on freedom around the world, Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world ranked Taiwan with a score of 93 out of 100.
This placed the nation 2nd highest in all of Asia only losing to Japan.
Also, the Human Freedom Index, which is a calculated measure of human freedom conducted annually by the Fraser Institute of Canada, ranked Taiwan 18 overall.
To put the number 18 in perspective, Germany was ranked 16, the United States 17, and Belgium 22.
The rankings and recognition from third party organizations are cool, but you don’t have to look far in Taiwan to see examples of its progressive attitude towards human freedom.
Just take these few examples:
- In May 2017, the constitutional court gave the legislature two years to recognize gay marriage as legally binding.
- In June 2017, the legislature officially recognized 16 languages spoken by the indigenous people of Taiwan as national languages of Taiwan.
- Taiwan has been chosen as the first Asian host for the Oslo Freedom Forum, an international human rights conference to be held on November 10th of this year.
The crazy thing to remember is that Taiwan’s democracy is still relatively new.
The nation only held its first legislative election in 1991 and the first president was elected in 1996.
Taiwan vs China
You can’t talk about what apps or websites are blocked in Taiwan without talking about the differences between Taiwan and China.
The confusing relationship between these regions is probably what leads you to wonder about this in the first place.
It is well known that China regulates its internet access, the apps available, and its freedom of the press through its “Great Firewall”.
There’s no access to Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, New York Times, and the country has even banned pictures of Winnie the Pooh from the internet.
So, that is why you might think Taiwan is the same.
The fact is that Taiwan and China are not the same and they have different sets of rules, government, money, and freedoms.
What happens in one region does not happen in the other, especially when we’re talking about social media censorship.
Here are some other differences between Taiwan and China:
|Money||New Taiwan Dollar||Renminbi|
|Chinese Characters||Traditional Chinese||Simplified Chinese|
|Government||Presidential Republic||Single party state|
|Religious Freedom||Free||Some not allowed|
|Most Popular Messenger App||Line|
|Social Network||Facebook, Instagram, YouTube|
|Search Engine||Google, Yahoo||Baidu|
Countries that Block Instagram and other Social Media
For the most part, social media is unblocked and happily available in most countries in the world.
Currently, in 2018, only China and North Korea actively block all social media sites including Instagram from being accessed.
Actively blocked means they are not available at all and the only way to circumvent this is to use VPN.
The only reason why I did not include Iran with China and North Korea is that shockingly Instagram is available there.
I say shockingly because every other social media site is blocked in Iran.
With that said, it has been temporarily blocked in the past, including as recently as January 2018 because of protests, so it could happen again.
What I found to be most surprising after doing some research is that although only China, North Korea, and for the most part Iran block the most popular social media sites, only 20% of the world’s internet users have complete internet freedom. The other 80% of the internet users in the world either have partial freedom or no freedom at all.
Countries like the United States, Australia, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom have complete internet freedom.
However, some countries that you would expect to have complete freedom do not, like South Korea, Brazil, and Mexico.
Living in a country with partial internet freedom doesn’t mean that you’re not able to Google for things, watch your favorite YouTube channels, or find the next Instagrammer to follow.
It just means that internet usage is monitored and restricted by the government in some way. For example, certain content might be removed, certain websites might be blocked, or social media may have been temporarily shut down in the past.
Just check out this partial list of where some country’s internet freedom ranks.
I bet you’ll be a little surprised too.
This list is not in any particular order and if you want to see the full list of countries and where they fall on the freedom spectrum, here is the link to the Freedom House Internet Freedom Report.
Countries with Free Internet Freedom
- South Africa
- United Kingdom
- United States
Countries with Partially Free Internet Freedom
- South Korea
Countries with No Internet Freedom
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
Using VPN When Visiting Countries that Block Social Media – China
Since you are wondering about the status of Instagram in Taiwan, I’m going to assume you will be traveling to China at some point.
If you do travel to China and your livelihood depends on Gmail or the big social media platforms, then you’re going to need to use a VPN to access these sites.
What is a VPN?
So what is a VPN?
I for sure didn’t know what it was when I first visited China.
What I did know is that all my expat friends used one to keep up with friends and family on Facebook and Instagram or to watch their favorite shows on Netflix.
A VPN is a Virtual Private Network which routes your connection through a third party server to the internet.
When you are using the VPN, your data is first encrypted, then sent to the VPN.
Then from the VPN server’s location, it is then sent to whatever online destination you wanted to go to.
By routing your activity through a VPN, your data will be encrypted and the location that the data is coming from will be based on where the VPN server is located.
When you’re in China and you use a VPN, the VPN will obscure your real location from others which allows you to get passed geo-blocking and censorship.
In other words, the VPN will make it look as if you’re using the internet from a location outside of China and bam, you’re free to post that latest story to your Instagram now.
When looking for a VPN to use in China, you’ll want one that is secure, reliable, fast, and of course easy to use.
Out of all the VPN providers that I looked at, NordVPN was the best one I found for what I needed.
They have over 5,000 VPN servers in over 60 countries, which allows for very fast speeds.
It was super easy to install on my windows desktop, Google Pixel, and iPhone and literally took 5 minutes.
Plus, they don’t have any restrictions on how much you stream or download.
Just last month we took a 10 day trip to China to visit Hangzhou and Shanghai.
I used NordVPN every day and was able to post to my heart’s content on Instagram and catch up on my favorite YouTube channels. Of course, this was all dependent on how fast the WiFi connection was.
NordVPN is a little bit more expensive than the other providers coming in at $11.95 per month for pay by month use, $6.99 per month for 1 year, $3.99 per month for 2 years, and $2.99 per month for 3 years, but I felt it was worth it for the service.
Instagram is not blocked in Taiwan or most parts of the world. In reality, you won’t have any trouble accessing social media to keep your friends up to date on your travels in most places you go to.
However, there are certain countries like China and Iran that block social media, so you’re either going to have to purchase a VPN service or just go without social media while you’re there.
Then there are other countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and India who have blocked social media in the past, so it is possible, although unlikely that social media is blocked while you are visiting.
Most of the time the sites were only blocked for a couple of days at a time due to political tensions, but it’s always good to keep up to date on the current political climate where ever you go.
Let’s be honest, though.
We live in a world where everyone is constantly looking at their phones, so it wouldn’t be the worst thing to take a break once in a while.
Plus, you would save a little bit of money from not having to purchase a VPN.