Last updated
August 3, 2023

Geo Blocking

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Shipton

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Geo blocking is the term used for when internet service providers restrict access to content based on geographical location. User access can be restricted by a number of methods, including looking up user IP addresses, GPS queries if the user is on a mobile device, and measuring the latency of an end-to-end network request to determine the user's physical proximity from an endpoint.

Geo blocking is most commonly used to restrict access to premium streaming platforms and content from streaming services and other media companies. These geo restrictions are primarily enforced to protect copyright and licensing agreements.

Other uses for geo blocking include location-based authentication, fraud prevention, blocking malicious traffic, and online gambling sites (gambling is legal in some US states but not others.)

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Is Geo Blocking Legal?

Yes, geo blocking is legal. The main justification for geo blocking when it comes to online content is that the ownership of content differs between regions, meaning the providers of the content must prevent users from accessing content outside their designated region.

For example, some online content providers license their content out to different broadcasters in other countries. HBO Now is available in the US, but cannot be accessed in Canada because HBO had already made licensing agreements with other content providers to distribute the same content in Canada.

The other use cases for geo blocking are mainly protecting users, rather than limiting access to content. For example, using IP addresses to assist in authentication helps prevent fraudulent requests from bad actors, keeping online bank accounts and other sensitive data secure.

Is Bypassing Geo Blocking Illegal?

Circumventing geo blocking may be illegal depending on the context, the country, and the method used. In most cases, accessing content outside its intended geographic region violates copyright laws, however, many services are hesitant to prosecute people for violating geo restrictions.

There are legitimate use cases for using proxy servers to access content, which is one of the things that makes it difficult to put a blanket ban on using services like VPNs to bypass geo blocking and access geo blocked sites. Some services have implemented measures to block VPN users.

How Does Geo Blocking Work?

Geo blocking uses tracking an geolocation technology to identify and block IP addresses. An IP address is a number assigned to a device when it accesses the internet. Every device connected to the web has a unique IP address that indicates the general location of the device, among other things.

An IP address tells you the zip code, city, and country of a device's ISP, and can be used to get an approximate location for the device. It cannot be used to identify an individual user.

Other geo blocking methods include using GPS data on a mobile device (location services), or measuring the latency of a network request (i.e. the time it takes for the data from a particular site to reach your device.)

How to Bypass Geo Blocking

There are four primary ways that you can bypass geo blocking: by using a virtual private network, by using a proxy server, by using a tor network, or by using a smart DNS service.

Bypass Geo Blocking Using Virtual Private Networks

The most common way that people bypass geo blocking is by using a VPN (virtual private network.) A VPN allows you to mask your real IP address by rerouting your online request to the VPN servers before it is sent to a website. Most VPN services have servers all over the world, and you can choose which server you want your traffic to go through.

For example, if you live in Italy and want to access geo blocked content in the United States, you would use a VPN and choose to route your web traffic through a server in the United States.

Bypass Geo Blocking Using Proxy Servers

Proxy servers are similar to VPNs in that a proxy server is a "middle man" that sits between you and the website you are trying to access. When you use a proxy server, your request is first sent to the proxy server, which then forwards your request to the site. The site therefore has no knowledge of your IP address; it only sees the proxy IP address. Like VPNs, proxy servers are all over the world and requests can be routed through many countries.

The crucial difference between a proxy server and a VPN is that VPNs encrypt data. When you use a VPN, you install the VPN software to your device. Before the request is sent from your device, the VPN software encrypts it and sends it through a tunnel to the VPN server. A proxy server on the other hand, does not install anything to your device. Your data is not encrypted before it reaches the proxy server.

A VPN is more secure than a proxy server, but they perform the same function when getting around geo restrictions.

Bypass Geo Blocking Using a Tor Network

A Tor network is a network of servers that routes internet traffic at random to increase anonymity. It is sometimes referred to as an "onion network" because traffic is routed through multiple layers of encryption.

The difference between a tor network and a VPN is that a VPN typically routes your encrypted request through a single server, run by the VPN company. A tor network, on the other hand, routes your request through a sequence of multiple, random servers, run by volunteers.

Bypass Geo Blocking Using Smart DNS

A smart DNS service masks your IP address by rerouting your domain name server requests. A domaini name server request is the request your device makes to a company's domain to translate the human-readable domain name that your type into your browser into the domain's IP address.

Smart DNS or DNS changing is more complicated to set up and usually requires some understanding of how network requests are made.


Geo blocking is the process of placing geo restrictions on websites and content on the internet, primarily to protect the copyrights of geo restricted content. Other use cases for geo blocking include preventing fraudulent requests, restricting access to certain sites like gambling sites, blocking malicious traffic, and performing location-based authentication.

Geo blocking is legal, and efforts to bypass geo blocking may be illegal depending on the country and method used to access content. There are many ways to bypass geo blocking, including using a VPN, using proxy servers, using tor networks, or using smart DNS.


What is meant by geo blocking?

"Geo blocking" or "geo-blocking" means placing restrictions on certain web content, based on a user's location. Typically, access to geo restricted content is limited because of copyright laws and licensing agreements.

Is bypassing geo blocking illegal?

Not necessarily. Depending on the country you are in, the content you are trying to access, and the method you use to access it, bypassing geo restrictions may be perfectly legal. Additionally, there are many legitimate reasons for using VPNs and proxy services, so most streaming services are not allowed to prevent users from accessing their content using these methods.

Why is geo blocking a thing?

Geo blocking exists mainly to enforce licensing agreements and internet censorship. Licensing agreements dictate where in the world certain media can be streamed. Many content providers may also enter into agreements with broadcasters in other countries who have exclusive rights to show their content.

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Shipton
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