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Unlocking Geo-Restricted Content

Unlocking Geo-Restricted Content

Everyone who’s ever been denied access to their favorite TV show knows about geo-blocking – the unfair, frustrating online censoring practice contributing to travelers’ boredom. As frustrating as that is, TV shows are not the only type of content to be geo-blocked or geo-restricted.

In this article, we’ll talk more about the latter – location-based content restriction.

Of course, we won’t miss the opportunity to discuss convenient and legal ways to bypass geo-fencing, especially in the context of entertainment content and online streaming services. However, we also want to mention other reasons for this, including market manipulation and censorship.

Ultimately, we’ll help you unlock your geo-restricted content.

While we’re working on that, let’s also say a few words about online ethics.

If you’re okay with that, let’s start from the basics.

What is geo-restricted content?

Geo-restricted content is anything on the web purposefully hidden from online users in certain geographical locations. Unlike geo-blocked content, which refers to websites and other online services that are fully blocked, geo-restricted refers to only partially hidden content.

For instance, you can’t watch Hulu in the UK. That is an example of geo-blocking.

Netflix, on the other hand, is available in nearly all countries in the world (except for China, North Korea, Syria, and Crimea, where Netflix is censored due to political reasons), but you can access some content only in the US. Everywhere else, this content is geo-restricted.

Geo-fencing is a synonym for both types of location-based censoring.

Who’s in charge of this and how?

We’ll explain the who part later, but how is an interesting question. Geo-fencing is possible thanks to the IP, a unique address dedicated to every device connected to the internet. IP reveals where you are at the moment, so it is easy to geo-fence your device depending on this data.

The goal of restricting content

Now, who is responsible for this?

Website owners and online streaming services mostly regulate their geofencing policies on their own. These are all online businesses with financially viable global strategies. If making their content available in, say, Bulgaria isn’t profitable for them, they’ll simply block or restrict it.

There are other reasons, as well, though.

In some countries, Amazon is heavily geo-restricted because the company profits more from offering more expensive local products. Though legal, this kind of market manipulation is unjust.

Another example comes from internet providers. It’s not unusual for ISPs to resort to geo-restriction to throttle online traffic and manage network congestion. That’s especially frustrating because it sometimes happens in countries where online content is not subject to restriction.

Unfortunately, there are cases where this practice is more than just frustrating.

Harmful effects of geo-restrictions

In the context of modern globalization, geo-restrictions can be extremely harmful.

An obvious example comes from war zones and countries with authoritarian regimes. To manipulate public perception, governments in these countries often ban social media, news outlets, and other online content providers that may stir up critical thinking by revealing the truth.

Market manipulation, as Amazon does it, can be marked as unethical too.

A crucial argument against geo-blocking and geo-restriction is that these practices, for whatever reason, hamper the online freedom of internet users. If the world wide web was designed to connect and share on a global level, then the balkanization of the internet is a colossal step backward.

Perhaps the only positive example of geo-blocking comes from governments that censor objectively harmful or illegal content, such as porn and online gambling. Perhaps this is debatable too, but it’s the opposite of harmful. As a society, we should stop encouraging these industries.

Tools for circumventing geo-restrictions

As promised, there are two winner ways to unlock your geo-restricted content:

  • Proxy
  • VPN

The internet keeps rekindling the old proxy vs VPN debate, but it ultimately comes down to this:

  • A proxy hides your online identity while you’re using a specific app or browser only;
  • Meanwhile, a VPN hides your online identity for everything you do on the internet.

Both proxy and VPN circumvent geo-restrictions by masking your IP address. They even do so by using the same protocol – they reroute your internet traffic through a second server that acts as a middleman between your device and the host server. It’s a simple but effective misdirection.

Why the proxy vs VPN discussion?

The only difference between using a proxy and relying on VPN is the level of coverage. With a proxy, you’ll still be able to scroll social media and run other frequently used websites/applications in parallel with having your IP address masked for a geo-restricted website or application.

A VPN will make you completely invisible, which may be a problem if you like to multitask. Click here to read more on the discussion.

Conclusion

Now that we all agree on why geo-restriction is bad (except when it’s good), the only thing left to do is choose the most suitable bypassing technique. A VPN is more comprehensive, but it’s slower. If this doesn’t settle down your own proxy vs VPN debate, let’s also say that a proxy is free.

Whatever you choose, you’re doing nothing wrong; bypassing is completely legal.

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