Geo-blocking can feel like discrimination, especially when you have paid for a service or have the capacity to pay, but always encounter a blank page with the writings, ‘This content is unavailable in your location.’ As a matter of fact, the European Commission considers geo-restriction a form of discrimination if companies avail content in just a few countries around Europe in another to increase profits.
Geo-restriction is common in many consumer sites, e.g., YouTube TV, Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, Spotify, to mention a few. In the business world, geo-restriction can prevent access to consumer reviews and feedback. It can even complicate the ad verification process.
But all is not lost since you can bypass these restrictions using tools readily available over the internet. These include virtual private network (VPN) software, proxy servers, and Tor Browser. However, choosing the best solution among these three options may prove challenging, owing to several factors, e.g., the volume of available information or lack thereof and misleading info. This article aims to help you choose the right solution.
How to bypass geo-blocking
As we’ve mentioned above, you have three options when you wish to circumvent geo-restrictions – VPNs, Tor Browser, and proxy servers.
– Virtual Proxy Networks (VPN)
A VPN bypasses geo-restrictions by creating a data tunnel between your computer (local network) and a VPN server in another country thousands of miles away. Notably, your preferred VPN service provider may have multiple servers, also known as exit nodes, in different locations worldwide. A VPN makes it seem like you are located in another area, i.e., where the exit node is situated, allowing you to access restricted content. Simply put, it hides your location.
VPNs have an added advantage. They encrypt data sent over the internet. In this regard, they promote security by preventing access to information originating from your device. This fact makes VPNs ideal whenever you are accessing public Wi-Fi. Moreover, the VPN hides your browsing history, making it inaccessible to even your internet service provider (ISP).
– Tor Browser
Tor browser is considered the dark web browser – it gives access to, among other things, the criminal underworld. Ironically, it was developed by the US security agencies. The Tor browser allows users to bypass geo-restrictions by routing web traffic through three different computers, a multilayered arrangement that assigns your computer a publicly listed IP address. In cases where your country has blocked the Tor browser, you can use a configuration that uses bridges, i.e., private IP addresses.
When you access a website using the Tor browser, the web server will estimate your location. In most instances, the location it comes up with is usually thousands of miles away from your real location. Usually, the Tor browser randomly selects servers from any region, although you can configure it to pick a server whose IP addresses are from one country only.
– Disadvantages of Tor Browser and VPNs
Nonetheless, both VPNs and Tor browser are disadvantageous. For one, some VPN providers store users’ communication logs and data. As such, when they are compelled to give the data up, say, by court order, they will readily surrender it. And that’s not all. A typical VPN will carry out load balancing. Therefore, it is not uncommon for you to be connected to a VPN in a country you had not selected initially.
On the other hand, governments globally are wary of Tor users because the browser facilitates criminal activities. If you use it often, you may find yourself on security agencies’ radar, not to mention the fact that it is slow. These drawbacks point to proxy servers as the remaining option.
Using proxy servers to bypass geo-restrictions
A proxy server is an intermediary that intercepts web requests originating from your computer, modifies them, and sends them to the target site on the user’s behalf. Notably, the modification is not as drastic as it sounds. The proxy just hides your real IP address and subsequently assigns your computer a new one, essentially giving you a new identity.
Naturally, IP addresses contain location markers. This implies that using a proxy server makes it seem like you are located in another country. For instance, a Brazil proxy will assign you a Brazilian IP address. It follows that you will access all Brazilian content, even that which was previously geo-restricted. You can find a Brazil proxy on Oxylabs website along with proxies from other countries.
With that said, proxy servers are not without drawbacks. For instance, they do not support encryption. But this fact also makes them faster than VPNs. Simply put, you will not have to deal with as many tradeoffs when using proxy servers, as would be the case if you opted for VPNs or the Tor browser.
Proxy servers are the best option if you intend to bypass geo-restrictions – it is better than using VPN or Tor browser. In the Brazil proxy example we’ve given, it is evident that using such a proxy will enable you to access restricted Brazilian content.