As we watch the crisis unfold in Ukraine, it has become clear that safe, free and open access to online content is more crucial than ever. The number of corporate behemoths that are curtailing online access for the aggressor seems to be growing on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, this works both ways - blocking internet access or access to certain types of content has become a weapon of war. With Ukrainian infrastructure being a target for destruction (over the past week, internet outages have been reported in Mariupol, Sumy, Kyiv and Kharkiv) the ability for its citizens to get reliable online access has taken a serious knock.
Mis- and disinformation are becoming much more common. This can have real-time consequences during wartime - wrong or lack of information, isolation and ultimately, the loss of communication with the wider world. This is the case with both parties in this conflict, and beyond. People lose their voice. People lose their access. The internet gets manipulated. Reliable information is compromised.
So what can tech companies do? When Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, reached out to Elon Musk for additional Starlink terminals. It should be noted that on Saturday, March 5th, Musk tweeted that some terminals near conflict areas were being jammed for several hours at a time, but SpaceX's latest software update successfully bypassed the Starlink jamming. This highlighted the huge importance - for governments, economies and societies as a whole - to maintain safe, secure access to the internet. At HOLA, we stand behind this. We stand for Access. We stand for the internet being a force for good.
For people in warzones to be able to access this lifeline, they need to be able to get access to the internet. This is where the likes of Starlink and indeed, the tech industry as a whole, including Hola, can and must contribute.
So how does Hola, a relatively small start-up, make a difference? Firstly, we are the only Access product (yes, we used to call ourselves a VPN, but we believe acronyms to be exclusionary) that is, always has been and always will be free. We do not ask for your credit card details, unless our users want to upgrade to our pro/premium product. So, whether for government officials, journalists or the population at large, where you are should not be a barrier to accessing the reliable and safe content when you need it more than ever.
Beyond that, we have Hola team members who are personally affected by the conflict. We have assisted them, when requested, to make arrangements for them and their families, to reach safety outside of their country. We are committed to our Hola family and remain on-call at any time to help them in any way we can.
A question we often receive is: how do we manage to provide a free product? How have we managed to keep growing as a business if we don’t charge? Well, as mentioned previously, we have our pro/premium product. However, over and above this, while Hola gives you access to any site on the Internet, users contribute idle device resources to a vast pool of residential IPs in exchange for a free, unrestricted browsing experience. We are truly a Community-powered access product. What does this mean? Our users help each other to make the web more open and accessible for all. If you’d like to dive deeper into how this works, click here.
As the title of this article says - it shouldn’t take a war - we are here for our users with free, safe access to content, no matter what the circumstances.