Online restrictions can create undue headaches for those hoping to view content that is suddenly or unexpectedly unavailable. The most common method of content restriction that frustrates people is geo-blocking.
Based on the user’s IP address, a website will either approve access or deny it depending on geographic location. This can lead to issues for those who travel for work and need to access a site back home, for example.
Geo-blocks also place such restrictions on users as price discrimination, forcing consumers to buy from more expensive vendors based on their location. The media industry also uses geo-blocking techniques that limit content based where users are located.
There are, of course, some beneficial uses of geo-blocking. For example, stopping access to locally illegal content or preventing users from visiting sites deemed unsafe. However, many people find frustration with geo-blocking and deem it necessary to bypass these restrictions. Fortunately, there are ways to see content that has been restricted.
Tools to Bypass Content Restrictions
There are many ways to avoid frustrating geo-blocking restrictions. Generally, these tools are effective against geo-blocking that limits access based on your IP address and its associated location. Each reason for access might require a different approach.
In some instances, one or more of these options may not work based on the geo-block you are encountering. Thus, you must evaluate how each tool could help you gain access to the content you want to see.
- Use a Proxy Server
A proxy server functions as a gateway necessary to access restricted content, as it stands in for your actual IP address. While this will give you access to specific content, it’s not entirely secure. There’s no encryption when using a proxy server. It is also limited to certain amounts of usage, making it challenging to apply for multiple access attempts.
- Use the TOR Browser
TOR is used as a secure browser, as it hides the user’s IP address when data is sent back and forth around the internet. This function could prove valuable in getting around certain content restrictions, as an unknown IP address may bypass any blocks applied.
- Smart Domain Name System
Smart DNS is a method frequently used to access geo-blocked media content. It effectively assesses where the site you are accessing is based and masks your DNS (a translation of your IP address) as one located in the target country or region. This tool is fast and effective, however, can leave you vulnerable since it lacks encryption.
The Most Effective Tool to Bypass Content Restrictions
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is the most common tool that helps to get around geo-blocks. A VPN is like a Smart DNS in that it makes a website believe your IP address is in the appropriate region to view the content. Once the website thinks you are in the required area, it will allow you to access all the features a user in that region would be able to see. However, a VPN is more secure as it uses encryption tools.
Here are a couple of examples of how using a VPN could give you access to content otherwise restricted:
Voot is a platform that presents copious genres and tens of thousands of hours of streaming content on demand. It has become quite popular globally because of how versatile it is. Unfortunately, Voot is only available to those in India and has geo-blocking restrictions for the rest of the world. By turning to a VPN, users make Voot believe they are in India while sitting anywhere in the world.
Sports teams often “blackout” games to viewers in the immediate region, to encourage fans to attend in person. By using a VPN to make it appear you are outside of the regional blackout, you could watch the game from the comfort of your home.
Media content sites like Hulu frequently restrict content based on viewer’s location. One show may be available in the UK, while it’s not in Australia. A VPN can provide access to any content on these sites by changing the perceived viewer’s location.