Companies block certain countries from accessing their websites for various reasons. We’ll tackle some of the most common ones in this post. And businesses that need to employ what we know as “geoblocking” can rely on different ways to block particular nations from visiting their sites, which we’ll discuss in greater detail as well. First, however, let’s define geoblocking.
What Is Geoblocking?
Geoblocking is a means of restricting access to Internet content based on a user’s geographic location.
In geoblocking, a user’s location is determined using online geolocation techniques that rely on IP address identification. Companies can check if a user’s IP address is part of a blacklist or whitelist. The findings are used to determine if the digital content’s host should approve or deny access to the website.
Geoblocking is most commonly used to restrict user access to premium multimedia content (films and TV shows) for copyright and licensing reasons. But it has other uses as well, such as blocking malicious traffic, customizing pricing information and language, and location-aware authentication, among others.
6 Reasons Why Geoblocking Is Done
This section enumerates six reasons why companies block countries from accessing their websites.
Reason #1: Economic Sanctions
For e-commerce websites, the primary reason could be economic sanctions. The country a business is registered in may not be allowed to trade with individuals and organizations alike in the nation the shopping site is banned in.
Amazon, probably the world’s largest e-commerce platform, for instance, doesn’t deliver to users from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria due to economic sanctions.
Reason #2: Internet Censorship
For news and information websites, one reason for employing geoblocking could be to restrict citizens’ access to external information and perspectives. In such cases, blocking is done by the government of the country whose people aren’t allowed to see content that could influence their views.
Examples of countries that employ Internet censorship include North Korea, China, Iran, Belarus, Qatar, Syria, Thailand, Turkmenistan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Reason #3: Content Restrictions
Streaming service providers are probably the greatest users of geoblocking for content restriction.
Some movies, for example, are not allowed to be shown in particular countries due to their content. An example would be “Abominable,” which wasn’t allowed to be shown in Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines due to content related to the countries’ territorial dispute with China. As such, Netflix had to disallow users from the three countries from viewing the movie.
Reason #4: Legal Restrictions
Many countries prohibit online gambling. As such, online gambling websites are blocked throughout countries entirely.
No one in countries like the UAE, Qatar, Poland, Cyprus, Brunei, Singapore, Lebanon, and almost all Asian countries can access online gambling sites.
Reason #5: Copyright Protection and Licensing Compliance
Streaming service providers are also the biggest users of geoblocking for copyright protection and licensing compliance.
Netflix, for instance, sometimes makes movies available in some countries but not in others. According to its Help Center, there are two reasons why related to copyright protection and licensing:
- Multiple rights owners: More than one studio or distributor may own the regional rights for a movie. A movie that the provider signed an agreement with its distributor to show an American-made movie in Latin America can thus be shown earlier in the latter before the U.S. if Netflix hasn’t signed an agreement with the studio to show it in the U.S.
- No rights available for a region: There are also times when a movie simply can’t be shown in a particular region because no one is selling its license.
Reason #6: Unserviceable Area Restrictions
Not all businesses are meant to serve wide areas. Some may only wish to serve customers in a particular city, state, or country. That said, it may be easier to restrict users from unserviceable areas from accessing their websites from the get-go.
The companies can thus let buyers whose hearts may already be set on availing of their products more gently. Consumers don’t have to waste time filling up an order form only to find out they can’t get the products they bought later on.
If You Must Restrict Access to Your Website, How Can You Do So?
There are various ways to restrict website access. This section features two.
Way #1: Use .htaccess
Using .htaccess requires coding knowledge. Employing this means may also require adding lines to your blocking code for each IP address you wish to block. The basic code looks like this:
Deny from 126.96.36.199
Deny from 188.8.131.52
Deny from 184.108.40.206
Utilizing this technique requires a reliable and comprehensive data source, such as an extensive IP geolocation database. And while this strategy may be tedious and time-consuming, it is probably the most precise way to restrict content access. You’d have fewer chances to block IP addresses that belong to permissible users.
Way #2: Hire a Hosting Company That Offers Blocking as a Service
A far easier way to block specific countries from accessing your website may be to hire a third-party provider. That is especially true if your company doesn’t have a dedicated website developer or administrator to take care of the task.
While many may argue that geoblocking shouldn’t be done, as it is a violation of someone’s right to access to information, it is necessary for some companies. Otherwise, they would have to contend with legal issues that could cost them a lot of time, effort, and financial resources.