They may call it the World Wide Web, but while the internet is available around the world, not everyone gets access to the same content. Many websites aren’t available in some countries, and some are even blocked in your own country if you try to visit the site during work hours or when at college. So, why are some websites blocked in some locations?
What is a block?
It is evident when you come across a website that is blocked due to geo-restrictions or censorship.
Instead of seeing the content you expect to see, all you see is a notice telling you that you cannot access the site in your location or an error message.
Levels of geo-restriction
There are two distinct levels of restrictions. The first occurs when you travel outside of your home country and try to access content, and the second is in your own country, but try to access sites from schools, colleges, or the workplace.
First, let’s look at the issue of visiting abroad. For instance, you might live in the USA and watch a series using USA Netflix.
However, if you take a trip to the UK and try to visit the site, you will be taken to the local version. It means you cannot access your content, and as only the US offers the entire catalog of content, your shows may not be available.
The same might apply if you are located in the UK but venture abroad and want to catch up on programs on BBC iPlayer. In this case, you will see a notice telling you the service is not available from your location.
In countries with high censorship such as China, many websites that are used every day by millions of people are on the blocked list. These include the Google range of apps, including Maps, Calendar, Gmail, and more. Social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, are also on the blocked list along with many more.
Why blocks are placed
In this instance, geo-restrictions apply due to geographical location.
Certain content may only be shown in certain regions. I.e., you can only stream BBC iPlayer within the UK or visit US Netflix from within the USA.
Some of the reasons websites are geo-restricted includes:
- Copyright issues;
- Ethical or moral issues (such as content shows gambling);
- Government intervention.
Even at home, restrictions may be enforced on what you can and cannot see and do online.
Schools, colleges, and the workplace may block access to sites such as Facebook, Twitter, shopping websites, and more.
In these instances, it may be to protect underage people from accessing gambling or pornography websites or to stop people who are supposed to be working from chatting on Facebook or shopping online.
In all cases of geo-restriction, the same method is used to stop people from gaining access to content, their IP address matched against a list of blocked web addresses.
Countries have unique IP addresses
Countries around the world all have a range of IP addresses. The restrictions are enforced based on the IP address and the website you want to visit.
The ISP knows your location from your IP address, and if a website is on the banned list in your location, it is blocked, and you cannot access it.
The IP address is unique to your device, and you cannot physically change it yourself. Using the IP address, the ISP not only spies on the websites you want to visit but also what you download, emails you send, and more.
There is a way to overcome geo-restrictions to gain access to any website anywhere in the world, but you need a VPN to do it.
We are not going to go into too much detail about how to do this as you can visit the-BestVPN for a step-by-step guide.
What we will say is that by using a VPN, you can easily mask your IP address and take one on from a server of the Virtual Private Network provider.
Another advantage of being behind a VPN is having an encrypted tunnel between you and the internet. Any information you type, such as the name of the website you want to visit is unreadable. As the ISP cannot read it, they do not know it is on the block list, so they cannot block it.
So, geo-restrictions and censorship do not just apply when you go abroad; it can happen in your own country.
In each case, your IP address stops you from accessing certain websites, and the ISP enforces the blocks.
If you mask your IP address using a VPN and take on one from a server, you can usually overcome restrictions.