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What is Geoblocking and How to Bypass It?
Updated · Aug 26, 2023
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Websites, streaming services like YouTube, subscription services, gambling sites, and others may implement geoblocking.
Most of these companies use geoblocking primarily for censorship and licensing restrictions.
Also, some governments may use geoblocking to censor or hide content from their citizens, one of the most popular of which is the Great Firewall in China, which blocks 8000 domains.
Read on to learn more about geoblocking and its place in the world’s internet life.
Geoblocking is permitted and may come in handy for different purposes, like imposing licensing agreements.
Georestrictions detect your device's IP address, which instantly identifies your location.
Using a VPN is one of the top methods to bypass geoblocking.
Setting up proxies can also help you get around geoblocking.
Geoblocking is permitted, and bypassing it through IP spoofing is also legal in most countries, except using it most likely violates most platforms' Terms of Service.
GeoBlocking: How Does It Work?
Geoblocking uses tracking software and geolocation technology to find your Internet Protocol (IP) address. Your IP address is then checked against a database that links IP addresses to specific places.
After figuring out where you are, it uses rules that may block or let you access the site's content or services.
👍Helpful article: Read Techjury’s beginner-friendly guide about IP addresses if you’re new to IPs and their use.
This is how geoblocking works specifically:
Stage 1: IP Address Identification
When you connect to the internet, your device is assigned an IP address. Most IP addresses are location-based.
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is the one who assigns you an IP address. When you travel abroad, your IP address changes, which can make it hard to access content from your home country.
Stage 2: Checking with Geolocation Database
Websites and online services use geolocation databases to match IP addresses to specific locations. The information in these databases is checked and updated often to ensure it is correct.
Stage 3: Geoblocking Rules
Rules for geoblocking can let people see only certain site pages or keep them from seeing the whole site.
Stage 4: Access Decision
Depending on the site's geoblocking rules, you may be able to access certain parts of the site, or you may be denied access to the site at all.
Stage 5: Content Delivery or Restriction
When permission is given, the server sends you the content. If access is denied, you may get an error message. At this point, you may also be redirected to a localized site or shown content specific to your region.
In the next section, you will learn the purpose behind the geoblocking of content and services.
Purpose of Geoblocking
While geoblocking can be used on any website, it is most commonly used on streaming sites. Geoblocking helps Netflix and Amazon Prime control access to content in compliance with licensing agreements.
The following are the top reasons for implementing geoblocking:
1. Enforce Licensing Agreements
Content creators sign licensing agreements when they want to make money from their work. This entails restricting access to digital content such as TV shows, books, or music based on your location.
Streaming services like Netflix utilize geoblocking to enforce licensing agreements. Geoblocking also helps them comply with copyright laws in various regions.
For instance, the content provider may grant Netflix exclusive rights to stream a movie in a particular region. Netflix then applies geoblocking to ensure that only users from that region can access or watch the movie.
Geoblocking helps content creators maximize revenue by selling the same content to different regions while respecting copyright agreements.
2. Market Segmentation and Pricing Strategies
Not all geoblocking leads to content restrictions. Some companies resort to geoblocking for market segmentation and pricing strategies.
In this case, the geoblocking will change the information you can view according to your country or location.
Companies with international clientele don't treat them as one big market but segment and strategize according to location.
Before pricing goods and services, regional purchasing power and competition are considered. This makes buyers from different locations pay different prices for the same product.
Moreover, geoblocking creates exclusivity, and sought-after content unavailable to all becomes highly valuable. This allows content creators to earn more money by selling their work at a higher price without increasing costs.
The consumer views geoblocking content as unfair, resulting in a consistent demand to work around it.
3. Compliance With Regional Laws and Regulations
Companies frequently use geoblocking in compliance with regional laws and regulations. Countries have varying legal requirements when it comes to the following:
- Data privacy
- Content distribution
- Product licensing
- E-commerce security
- and more
Geoblocking can prevent personal data from crossing borders and violating data protection laws. Furthermore, one country's legal content may be censored in another.
It can also assist businesses in complying with tax and customs regulations. It enables them to adjust pricing and availability to meet the tax requirements of a specific country.
This is especially important in e-commerce, where international transactions can be subject to varying tax rates and import duties.
4. Banning Illegal Content
Content creators are also bound to geoblocking. Governments forbid the entry of specific content they deem illegal, such as porn or online gambling.
If they don't do geoblocking, these companies might break the strict government laws and gambling commissions, like in the UK.
In China, the government uses the broadest form of censorship to stop people from speaking out against the government. With the geoblocking firewall, which the government runs, they block foreign social media sites like Facebook.
North Korea is notorious for isolating its people from the rest of the world. Ordinary citizens can only access their country's intranet, known as Kwangmyong.
The hermit kingdom's elites are the only ones with internet access. Most of them are people with high positions in the government.
Here’s a list of the most censored countries in the world:
Restrict access to various foreign websites and online services, including social media.
Ordinary citizens can access their country's intranet, and only government officials have internet access.
Internet service providers (ISPs) must install equipment to allow authorities to bypass providers, automatically block government-banned content, and reroute internet traffic.
Employs extensive internet censorship to control access to online content and communication platforms.
The government has blocked around 400,000 sites. This includes sites on political, social, and religious topics that conflict with the monarchy's Islam.
Restricts access to websites and platforms, especially those critical of the government. It also mandates Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft disclose data on all bloggers using their platforms.
Authorities block emails and sites that expose human rights violations or oppose the government.
IP addresses and personal information of bloggers must be reported to the government by ISPs. All traffic goes through a central network, and the government filters all uploaded content and monitors emails.
Same as Cuba.
The only online provider is the government. It monitors all Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail accounts and blocks many sites.
The government heavily filters political, ethnic, religious, human rights, and foreign affairs websites. Bloggers who jeopardize national unity are arrested.
(Source: USA Today, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House)
Find out about the different kinds of geoblocking in the next section.
Types of Geoblocking
There are various ways that geoblocking is implemented. Content makers and companies create rules regarding how geoblocking works for their content. IP-based geoblocking is one of the most common types.
Here are the four types of geoblocking:
1. IP-Based Geoblocking
This type of geoblocking involves blocking users from specific regions based on their IP addresses. When you visit specific sites, they identify your IP address and may block some parts or the whole site.
Aside from the purpose of geoblocking mentioned above, companies may use IP-based geoblocking to:
- Show different offers for different regions
- Feed relevant business hours.
- Provide a localized feel.
- Translate essential messages into the language of target audiences.
- Redirect customers to a page that uses their language.
2. DNS-Based Geoblocking
This type of geoblocking uses DNS (Domain Name System) to determine the visitor's location. Websites restrict access to certain content or services based on their DNS server origin.
DNS-based geoblocking is commonly used to block whole countries for eCommerce and cybersecurity purposes.
While an official list of countries that should be blocked doesn't exist, the list commonly includes the following countries:
- North Korea
One of the bases for a country to be included in this “common list” is the non-existence of a dedicated agency that ensures cybercrime security.
Another reason is some of these countries are often excluded from shared international policies on web management, so companies often opt just to block them to avoid complications.
3. Credit Card-Based Geoblocking
Another type of geoblocking in practice is credit card-based geoblocking. Online shopping platforms are primarily utilizing this type of geoblocking.
They don’t totally deny access to the site, but you must use credit card details from the required region to complete your purchase.
Other websites use geolocation data to determine the users’ location. These services use the following to determine a user’s position:
- GPS data
- IP addresses
- Wi-Fi networks
After determining your location, the website will compare it to the predetermined list of allowed or blocked locations. If your location matches one on the blocked list, you are denied access to some or all parts of the site.
Get a full understanding of geoblocking by reading about how it can be used in the next section.
Use Case of Geoblocking
While almost all websites can use geoblocking, it is most frequently used by streaming companies.
On top of agreements with content creators, streaming sites use geoblocking because some of their content or premium subscriptions are priced differently in different parts of the world.
Here are the most popular ones:
Netflix is one of the largest streaming companies, with 238.39 million paying subscribers in Q2 2023. It is available for streaming in over 190 countries. However, each country's Netflix library is different.
Local content is added to the Netflix library, but other than that, Netflix streams third-party content as well as original programming.
License terms and conditions determine whether Netflix can stream movies and TV shows in a certain nation. A show available on US Netflix may not be allowed to stream on Netflix in Australia.
🎉Fun Fact: Did you know that most Netflix viewers are women? About 52% of Netflix viewers are women, the same as Hulu, which also has a 52:48 gender split.
Amazon Prime has over 200 million members worldwide and is home to thousands of videos and TV shows.
Amazon Prime uses geoblocking not only for its streaming services. It also blocks games, ebooks, software, audiobooks, and other digital content, primarily due to licensing and copyright restrictions.
YouTube is available in more than 100 countries and supports 80 languages. People may perceive that YouTube is “everywhere,” but it is also restricted in some countries.
Also, there is some YouTube content that you can’t watch because they are not available in your region.
Content creators can apply geoblocking restrictions, primarily due to licensing restrictions. Moreover, the platform may block specific content to comply with local laws.
🎉Fun facts: Over 15 million YouTube content creators upload about 3.7 million videos daily. Billion hours of content are watched each day by over 122 million daily users.
Other Companies That Use Geoblocking
Here are more companies using geoblocking:
- Disney+ - Like other streaming services, Disney+ restricts access to its content from specific locations through geoblocking.
- Amazon - Online shops like Amazon also implement geoblocking. It restricts users, so they are forced to use the local version of the site. This could result in a higher price and fewer product options.
- Hulu - Similar to various streaming services, Hulu imposes geoblocking. It is available only in the US and on US military bases. Hulu relies on a user's IP address to determine what content they can access on the platform.
- Pandora - One of the best online radio platforms, Pandora offers more radio stations and shows than many others. However, it utilizes geo-restrictions as it is only available in the US due to copyright laws.
- Spotify - While Spotify is widely available in the EU and the US, it has limited availability in Asia and Africa. Like other streaming services, it uses geoblocking to keep people from watching certain shows because of licensing agreements.
- PUBG - PUBG restricts access from certain regions for various reasons, including government regulations and content restrictions.
- AirBnB: It uses geoblocking to keep certain listings from showing up in certain areas. This is done to comply with local laws and ensure a smooth user experience.
Check out the next section to learn about workarounds for geoblocking.
How To Bypass Geo-Blocking
When thinking of bypassing geoblocking, the first thing that you need to do is spoof your geolocation by hiding your IP address.
Here are different ways to bypass geoblocking:
Use VPNs (Virtual Private Networks)
A VPN is the most effective way to bypass geo-restrictions. It allows you to privately and securely bypass geo-blocked sites and other types of internet censorship.
A VPN masks your IP address and substitutes it with an IP address from a different location.
One of the downsides of using a VPN to stream videos and other content is the reduced internet speed. When you use a VPN on your device, your data stream doesn’t directly flow to a hosting server.
Your data traffic passes through a VPN server first before reaching your device. All traffic is encrypted, which further uses internet bandwidth.
📝Note: While a VPN can help you bypass geo-blocked sites, it can’t help when the service you need requires proof of address or bank details.
The farther away your chosen server is, the longer you wait to access your requested information. Moreover, using a VPN with many users can also affect your internet speed.
Too many requests can push the servers to their limit, affecting the VPN's performance. Choosing a VPN with a large global network is the best solution.
When using a VPN to bypass geo-blocked sites, remember that some platforms might have measures to detect and even block VPN usage for this purpose.
👍Helpful article: Read Techjury’s article about internet speed reduction caused by VPN and the ways to improve it.
Recommended VPNs to Bypass GeoBlocking
There are a lot of VPNs to choose from, but there are only a few that can successfully avoid geo-blocks from highly sophisticated websites.
Here are our top two recommended VPNs for dealing with geo-blocked content:
When it comes to VPN services, NordVPN is among the most trusted ones. It has over 5,500 servers in 60 countries, giving you a wide choice of servers to connect to.
👍Helpful article: Amazon Prime is a popular streaming platform with a hard-to-crack anti-VPN mechanism. You can check out Techjury’s article discussing how to fix a non-working VPN on Amazon Prime if you’re having difficulties with your current VPN provider.
With over 3000 servers in 94 countries, ExpressVPN is another handy and well-known VPN service. It provides fast speeds and excellent performance in bypassing of geo-restricted content.
ExpressVPN is proven to unblock many streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Apple TV, Disney+, and many more.
👍Helpful article: Netflix is another tough web platform when it comes to imposing geo-restrictions. Learn how to unblock Netflix with Techjury’s beginner-friendly guide.
Proxies can let you bypass geoblocking without sacrificing your internet speed. A proxy server works on your behalf, acting like a middleman between you and the server providing the content.
It hides your IP and sends your traffic through a remote server, so your ISP can’t determine your location.
Proxy Recommendations to Bypass Geoblocking
A good proxy enables you to bypass geoblocking without getting your IP blocked or your privacy exposed.
Here are our top recommended proxy service providers to do the job well:
To avoid getting your IP banned or having your privacy compromised, SmartProxy is a top proxy service for bypassing restrictions.
It has 195 data centers in eight cities around the world. This allows you to take advantage of over 40 million IP addresses. SmartProxy allows for multiple proxy connections to be active simultaneously.
With a pool of over 2 million IP addresses, IPRoyal is one of the top VPNs for bypassing geoblocking. It includes top locations like the US, UK, Germany, and China.
It also provides sneaker proxies dedicated to collectors. Using them lets you bypass restrictions in fashion stores that limit shoppers from buying in bulk.
IPRoyal offers a 4G mobile proxy that uses residential IPs from cellular networks and real user devices as network sources. This gives users fewer chances of getting banned.
👍Helpful article: Check Techjury’s complete list of the best proxy server providers for 2023 for more detailed and comprehensive reviews.
Smart DNS (Domain Name Server)
Smart DNS changes the DNS name on your device from local ones to DNS servers based in other countries. It spoofs your location by rerouting your Domain Name Server to request another location so you can access blocked content.
Setting up DNS can be challenging as it usually involves manual configuration. Also, smart DNS doesn’t hide your IP address, leaving you vulnerable to online tracking and privacy intrusions.
Tor (The Onion Router)
The Onion Router, or Tor, allows for increased anonymity by masking your IP address and encrypting your traffic. It is free to download and is compatible with Windows, Android, and Apple devices.
The Tor browser comprises a three-layered proxy. It will randomly connect to a public node for entry, redirect user traffic to a middle node, and then the exit node.
It is an open-source software that can help you bypass geoblocking. Tor is only accessible in its own browser, and it can be challenging for average internet users.
Since volunteers power the Tor network, speed can be a problem. For this reason, it's more suitable for anonymous browsing than streaming.
📝Note: Wondering if Tor is legal? Learn more about the Tor browser by reading our article on Tor’s safety and legality. You can also check the article that discusses Tor’s privacy features and concerns.
Geoblocking is all about control. It is certainly legal and can serve good purposes. However, it is prone to abuse, resulting in unfair access to online products, contents, and services.
Malicious entities may also use geoblocking to manipulate and discriminate.
Two things are clear, geoblocking can be inconvenient and frustrating. The good thing is that you can get around geoblocking with the proper tools and methods.
How do content providers determine which regions to block?
Licensing agreements, market strategy, government policies, and economic factors like purchasing power determine which regions to block.
What is geoblocking regulation?
Geoblocking regulations aim to give all EU equal access to a trader's goods and services at all times, anywhere. It seeks to end unjustified geoblocking policies that stifle online shopping and cross-border sales in the EU.
Can I use a free VPN to bypass geoblocking?
Yes, you can use a free VPN to bypass geoblocking, but it is unreliable. They are often detected and blocked. Free VPNs have limited bandwidth and slow speeds, impacting your online experience.
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