Every country has different ways to access the internet. For one, what the internet looks like to those in the US may differ from other countries. Usually, it’s because of government censorship of online services. Additionally, some private companies in the US are also creating obstacles to users from all over the world who want to explore the internet freely.
Geoblocking is one of the most common ways to censor the internet. Geoblocking aims to place restrictions on content or services based on a user’s geographical location. It is a common practice in many countries whose government maintains strict censorship of web content, including China, Iran, Russia and the UAE.
These countries either block access to certain websites or limit the transmission of certain data based on the geographic location of the internet user.
There are also private companies that use geoblocking as a means to deny access to certain services or content to users. This is typically done for copyright reasons or to promote rogue/pirate sites.
The Role of Internet Middlemen
We also found that many websites were using services provided by their hosting companies and online middleman companies called content delivery networks. These firms hosted the sites at key locations around the world to speed up service for nearby users.
While this was often done to improve speed and service, it also allowed the content delivery networks to block or slow connections to specific servers based on their geographic location.
For example, one host might decline a connection to a server serving the Middle East because of the region’s reputation for illegal file sharing.
Internet middlemen also were used to blocking access to certain websites based on their political affiliation. Companies like Facebook and Google have been accused of blocking users and content on these grounds.
We found that internet middlemen were also used to block access to websites based on users’ political affiliation.
The Ineffectiveness of Geoblocking
Restricting access to content based on geography is unlikely to affect all internet users equally. As when evading censorship, getting around a geoblock is not necessarily difficult.
However, not everyone will have the technical knowledge or expendable income to do so. Even if a user can ultimately access the content they were originally denied, they may bear a significant burden to gain access to the wider internet.
Geoblocking is not effective at stopping illegal content from being accessed by users, either. It’s impossible to filter all content. Users also tend to find workarounds that allow them to use illicit content.
While geoblocking is effective for governments and private companies that want to control what people can access online, it does not stop people who are determined to circumvent the restrictions.
As a result, the technology is counterproductive because the government’s goal is not achieved.
As you can see, geoblocking is used by many government agencies, services, and companies worldwide. It is a resource used to maintain control over the internet, but it is also an obstacle for internet users wishing to access content online freely.
While it’s important to protect the privacy of information online, geoblocking technology is not the only way to censor the internet.
However, the technology does not necessarily stop people from accessing illegal content online. Instead, technology is often used to control what people can see.
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