Home / Definitions / Geo-Blocking


Abby Braden
Last Updated February 13, 2024 3:25 am

What’s Geo-blocking?

Geo-blocking is the restriction of access to digital content, based on your geographic location. Your location is determined using geolocation information such as your IP address.

Geo-resrictions  on digital content can take a number of forms. They might exist for commercial reasons, such as Netflix or Hulu limiting some of their content to particular regions. Geo-blocks may also be political in nature: states such as Iran, China and Russia for example use geo-restrictions to enforce state-wide digital censorship.

Is Geo Blocking Legal?

Yes, geo-blocking is legal. In fact, it’s become a normal business practice with the explosion of digital content. Online content makes money by selling “licenses” to particular regions; therefore its profitability rests on being able to restrict regions without a license.

For example, Netflix is split into separate geographic regions, with each region having a license for different content. So if you’re accessing Netflix from Europe, you’ll have a different selection than if you were accessing your account from the US.

If you reside in a country with a digital censorship in place, the government will have agreements in place with the internet service providers to “blacklist” IP addresses of websites they don’t approve.

How Does Geo Blocking Work?

Geo-restrictions operate by using data, such as the connecting device’s IP address, to identify the location of the user. The content system can then block requests from a given location.

How to Bypass Geo Blocking

Because geo-blocking uses an IP address to determine a user’s location, any method that alters or hides a true IP address can be used to get around it. This is known as geo-spoofing and is mainly used to access blocked streaming content.

Use a virtual private network

The most common way to avoid geo-blocking is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN will make it look like traffic is coming from a different location with a new IP address. It also keeps a connection safe by encrypting traffic and directing it through a safe tunnel, meaning no one can spy on activities or steal information. If using a VPN during travel, it is especially valuable when connecting to an unsecured public wifi network.

Use proxy servers

Proxy servers are also useful to avoid geo-blocking. Rather than changing an IP address, a proxy server acts as an intermediary and obtains content on a user’s behalf. The website providing the content sees the request originating from the proxy server, not the user.

Using a Tor network

Tor (The Onion Network) is an internet browser that allows completely anonymous browsing. Tor masks your true IP details by routing your connection through various router nodes within its network. Using Tor is therefore anothet way to subvert geo-restrictions on content you want to access.

Use smart DNS

Smart DNS is a service that enables you to “auto-select” your IP location according to the content you want to access. It detects geo-restrictions and automatically configures your IP address to a region that can access the page.


Geo-blocking is a normal element of digital content distribution, and can sometimes be part of a political censorship. It is implemented via your IP address details, and can often be circumvented by masking that address.


What does geo-blocking mean?

Geo-blocking is the act of restricting digital content for particular users, via their IP address or other data denoting geographic information.

Is bypassing geo blocking illegal?

Since geo-restrictions are normally agreed by contract, bypassing them is likely to be illegal in most cases. But this can be hard to enforce. For example, if you’re using a VPN to circumvent a block, it would be difficult for an authority to prove what content you consumed. This would rely on the cooperation of the VPN, which is not a given. So while bypassing these restrictions is illegal, the penalty may not be enforceable.

What are geo-blocking examples?

Geo-blocking is most commonly used to restrict access to premium multimedia content such as films or television shows for copyright and licensing reasons. As the digital protection of copyrighted material is becoming increasingly difficult to control, geo-blocking offers a solution. For example, Netflix, a subscription-based streaming service, uses geo-blocking due to licensing agreements with content creators. Users who live outside of the United States will be geo-blocked from watching films or television shows that are restricted to U.S. residents only. The service Netflix provides is region specific.

Other uses include applying tax codes to online purchases, blocking gambling websites in the states in which it’s illegal, fraud prevention, and blocking malicious traffic.