Who Uses Tor in Not-Free Countries

Freedom House evaluated 65 of the world’s 195 countries for the extent of their Internet freedom. Of the countries they looked at, 21 scored as “not free,” 29 as “partly free,” and 15 as more or less “free.”

From the Tor metrics site, here are the numbers of Tor users in each of the not-free countries, divided into bridge users and directly connecting users. Note that the number of users is estimated rather than measured. It is calculated by taking daily directory requests from each country and dividing by 10.

Country Most popular
bridge
Bridge users
/ day
Direct users
/ day
Azerbaijan obfs4 10 500
Bahrain obfs4 10 400
Belarus obfs4 1,000 5,000
China meek 2,000 2,000
Cuba obfs4 10 400
Egypt obfs4 200 3,000
Ethiopia obfs4 10 500
Iran obfs4 4,000 50,000
Kazakhstan obfs4 10 3,000
Myanmar obfs4 10 400
Pakistan obfs4 100 4,000
Russia obfs4 7,000 300,000
Saudi Arabia obfs4 200 3,000
Sudan obfs4 10 300
Syria obfs4 10 400
Thailand obfs4 300 30,000
Turkey obfs4 1,000 30,000
United Arab Emirates obfs4 300 3,000
Uzbekistan obfs4 100 600
Venezuela obfs4 10 10,000
Vietnam obfs4 200 3,000

Notes

  1. The Freedom House universe of 65 countries did not include North Korea or Turkmenistan, both of which severely restrict access to the Internet.
  2. Numbers have been rounded. The number 10 is a stand-in for “very few.”
  3. Not-free countries often turn out to be Islamist dictatorships or Communist dictatorships.
  4. The China numbers don’t look right. It is widely believed that the GFW prevents direct connections to Tor from China. We would expect zero direct users / day.
  5. If the metrics numbers are right, bridges are not necessary as often as you might think. Even in not-free countries, people appear to frequently connect directly.
  6. The numbers tell us nothing about netizens’ motivation for using Tor. Not all are evading political censorship. For example, Russia is a major user of Tor, but Proekt estimated that Hydra accounts for 393,000 active users.
  7. According to a post on Reddit, simply using Tor may by itself be illegal in several of these countries.