Honeygain Explains: Location-Based Web Restrictions
You’ve probably experienced this more than once: you want to open a particular website, but instead of its landing page, you see a warning message that says the content is only available in selected countries or regions. More specifically, you won’t be able to view it simply because of where you live.
According to research, virtually all the countries of the world experience geoblocking on at least one website. While the issue occurs rarely in countries like the U.S., it’s an everyday hindrance in others. Why is that?
There are two main types of location-based web restrictions – geoblocking and Internet censorship. Let’s get to know them both, learn the reasons behind them, and understand the role of Honeygain in this regard!
Geoblocking for compliance 🌎
Geoblocking is an action implemented by a company or website owner, and they’re a bit similar to region codes DVD publishers use. What it typically means is, the online access to certain content is limited to specific locations only. Due to licensing agreements and copyrights, this mostly affects stuff like movies, TV series, etc. – you might be unable to access the whole library (e.g., on BBC iPlayer or 10 Play) or a part of it (e.g., on Netflix).
According to research, virtually all the countries of the world experience geo-blocking on at least one website.
Here’s a simple example for you. Friends used to be available on Netflix U.S. up until the last months of 2019. However, Friends belongs to AT&T – and so does HBO. Once HBO created a streaming platform of its own called HBO Max, Friends moved there and out of Netflix U.S. – however, it’s still available on Netflix in countries that do not have HBO Max.
Geoblocking practices are not limited to multimedia products, either. For example, you might find yourself unable to enter:
Gambling websites. Online gambling (virtual poker, sports bettings, etc.) is only legal in a handful of countries, and most gambling websites block access for regions that don’t allow it (e.g., Russia or China).
Hosting websites. There are a few countries that forbid their residents to earn by offering short-term stays in the real estate they own. That’s why you can’t access AirBnB and some similar websites from Crimea, Iran, North Korea, and Syria!
Foreign versions of e-shops. Some vendors offer different prices to different regions (price discrimination – e.g., many IT products are significantly more expensive in Australia) and use geo-blocking to prevent users from buying goods cheaper from a different country.
Foreign websites of local relevance. Suppose a certain cafe only delivers in London: in that case, it doesn’t really need users from other countries wandering around – and blocking them altogether lowers the number of potential hacking attacks.
While some of the use cases are questionable (e.g., price discrimination), the absolute majority of them are actually implemented to comply with the varying laws worldwide.
Censoring the Internet 🚨
Another type of restricting access to websites and applications is called Internet censorship. Unlike geoblocking, it is implemented by governments and not individual companies or organizations. You could also say geoblocking is done from the outside of the country that loses access, and censorship works from inside it.
This type of location-based restrictions is prevalent mainly in countries with with more conservative political regimes. In its essence, it’s a means of control: countries try to limit foreign influences, as well as filter content based on religious or political reasons. It has also been noticed that censorship often gets worse at times of local elections.
Location-based censorships typically include access to:
Informational websites (e.g., The New York Times or Wikipedia)
International financial services (e.g., PayPal)
Social networks (e.g., Facebook or Twitter)
VoIP services (e.g., Skype or Facetime)
Messaging applications (e.g., WhatsApp or Discord)
Search engines (e.g., Google or Bing)
Adult content (in conservative and/or religious countries)
Unlike geoblocking, censorship is implemented by governments, and not individual companies or organizations.
It’s important to note that even if you can access a website in a country that’s prone to censoring, you might see heavily filtered content or be unable to sign up/sign in. Some websites can also start working at random times… only to soon be shut down again.
Out of all the countries that censor the Internet their citizens see, China is the most notorious blocker. Over 20 years ago, Geremie Barmé even came up with the term The Great Firewall of China to describe its extreme measures!
How do they know where I am? 🕵
Naturally, to be able to block access for Internet users from specific locations, websites need to understand where they’re located – and there are two ways to do this. First, of course, they check your IP address. An IP address is an individual identifier assigned to your network by the Internet service provider. It does not reveal your exact location, but it does show an approximate area – and that’s more than enough for country-level restrictions.
Secondly, they measure your ping. Put simply, it is the speed at which your Internet connection reacts to a new request and sends out a response. Measuring the time it takes for the message to echo allows websites to judge your location as well – and when you add the IP address and the ping data together, you can be pretty sure where the end-user is.
Of course, there are ways to mask your real IP address by using proxies, VPNs, or the onion routing project Tor. However, it can get risky, as some governments have banned those, too! To find out more about IP addresses, proxies, VPNs, and other related topics, read our blog post Honeygain Explains: IPs, Proxies, and All In Between!
What does Honeygain have to do with this? 🐝
Various types of location-based restrictions are an issue for businesses attempting to collect reliable web data. Imagine you have a company that sells video games, and you’re running localized advertising campaigns for different countries. How can you make sure the ads are showing correctly if you can’t reach all the websites from your location?
Copyright infringement is another simple example. Let’s say you invent a new type of bag and get the design copyrighted. What an achievement! Unfortunately, someone on a different side of the planet might start making and selling fake copies – and you’d never know about it if their e-shop was only available locally.
As you join Honeygain, you become a part of a crowdsourced web intelligence network. Each connected device then acts as a gateway – and there are currently millions of them all around the planet! This way, our business clients can see the web from every corner of the world and get a real unobstructed view.
Naturally, each member of the network is compensated for shared traffic – you can choose to receive cash on PayPal or bitcoin to your favorite crypto wallet. The best part is, the traffic passes through your device, never accessing what’s actually on it. Your personal data is completely safe at all times!
Help businesses access publicly available web data around the world and earn effortlessly today – download Honeygain by clicking the button bellow, sign up with the code 'sweetmoney' to receive 🎁FREE $5 🎁, and start your Honeygaining journey! 👇