Geo-blocking is a method used by companies to block people in certain regions from accessing their website. A website can tell a visitor’s location through an IP address. This is one of the popular ways of restricting the use of the internet across the world.
Different companies have different explanations to justify geo-blocking. If you are a frequent internet user, you must have come across restrictions as a result of geo-blocking. It is often frustrating. To most users, it does not make sense why an online business will restrict access to its products and services in the 21st century where the world should be a global village. Actually, it defeats the goals of development in information technology.
How it works
Geo-blocking is a new form of discrimination in the world. When trying to buy a product from a foreign country in one of the webshops a frustrating message will pop up on your screen. It doesn’t matter how polite the message is structured, it is unnecessary.
It defeats the purpose of an open market where buyers and sellers are free to make transactions irrespective of their location. It is worse because the companies that practice geo-blocking are protected by legal policies. The fact that you can’t access information or any form of data be it product or services because of a geographical location is sad. It is the legal form of discrimination.
Saudi Arabia is hit!
Saudi Arabia is one of the victims of Geo-blocking, especially by American companies. Some companies are kind enough to allow the website to launch in your location but limit you on access. In fact, most websites behave in this manner. You will view the products and click the link but the subsequent stages of making a payment or checking features of the product or service will be unavailable.
Hulu, for instance, is a renowned American entertainment company because of its efficient and quality services. The company has largely invested in marketing campaigns hence its popularity in every corner of the world. However, the site is unavailable to people in Saudi Arabia. The customer service will openly refuse to serve you because you are in a different location. The message, “sorry, this service is not available in your country” is not polite at all. Why would such a company that fronts as an international firm and top player in the industry advertise largely across the globe then block people in some areas? There is no better way to describe it other than discrimination.
Netflix is also a culprit in modern discrimination. The management in this case is a little considerate because they allow people in Saudi Arabia to access content up to certain levels. Saudi content is limited as compared to users’ access to the US. Moreover, Netflix will charge a site visitor in Saudi Arabia at the same price as a user in America even with the limited service. Users in the United States access about 86% more content than users in Saudi Arabia. Why would we be treated differently?
Amazon.com is frustrating too. We can access the products, check the features but we cannot buy the products because we are in Saudi Arabia. The site simply says they cannot deliver products to Saudi Arabia. There is no further explanation of this. Charging more for deliveries would make sense other than completely shutting us out.
Besides business companies, essential services are also discriminatory. 23andme for instance, will not process a request because it is from Saudi Arabia. The company will accept and process your application, receive your payment, and send the kit. However, they will go silent on your request after sending the kit back for the DNA test. Going to the extent of taking money and not delivering the service as per their policies is more than discrimination. It is taking advantage of the location to defraud.
What is worse?
I know, geo-blocking not only affects Saudi Arabia. There are many other countries restricted access to products, services, and useful information just because of their location. The only difference is the modern discrimination in Saudi Arabia is under legal cover.
The mentioned companies are only part of an endless list with licenses to restrict citizens of this country from accessing their websites.
The primary aim of the invention of the internet was creating a free market. The essence of e-commerce is for convenience and flexibility of business transactions where both sellers and buyers benefit. It defeats the purpose to set up an online shop then restrict access. If Amazon.com, Hulu, Netflix among others would want to serve customers from the United States alone, why would they create a website and direct advertisements to our country?
The licensing aspect that covers this discrimination is a letdown.
Geo-discrimination is like racism. Of course, different parts of the world have different cultures that have to agree on standard practices for harmony. This is what makes the world beautiful, diverse. Pushing away people in Saudi Arabia for whichever business reason is unnecessary and improper, especially in the 21st century. Technology comes with its own challenges but the goal should be to make life easier for everyone, not creating walls. We are all human with rights. Geo-discrimination should not be legal.