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How to access American websites blocked to European visitors

Posted on January 20, 2021

 

It’s getting on for three years since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was introduced throughout the European Union, and despite Brexit, its protocols are also followed here in the UK. Outside of Europe, however, attitudes towards GDPR remain cautious and standoffish.

Having been put together in April 2016 and heavily discussed for the two years that followed, the implementation of GDPR was no surprise to anybody, yet even five years on, many American websites choose to block European visitors rather than ensure they are GDPR compliant. Most notable among these are all news sites owned by Lee Enterprises, which includes over 70 daily newspapers and hundreds of specialty publications.

Since we follow and write US news here at Engage Web, this is pretty annoying, but there is a fairly simple way around it.

Use a VPN or web proxy

A virtual private network (VPN) allows you to join a private network as though you were part of that network. To put that into plainer English, it means you can access a website that may ordinarily block you due to your geographical location, so if you want to access an American website, you can use a VPN to connect to it via a US server.

A lot of people are put off the idea of VPNs because they require downloading software, which might seem “techy” and complicated. Thankfully, a quick browse of a blocked site is possible without downloading anything, and anyone with a basic familiarity with the internet should be able to manage it.

All you need to find is a web proxy. I use Hidester, but there are plenty of others. Here’s how you can do it:

1. Go to Hidester.com
2. In the box marked “Enter URL”, put the URL for the site you want to visit. Since we’ve mentioned Lee, let’s use one of its sites – the Alabama-based Dothan Eagle. If you try to access https://dothaneagle.com/ from the UK without a proxy, you will be told it’s unavailable for legal reasons, but we’re going to solve that
3. Make sure the drop-down box on the left is set on “US Server”
4. Click “Surf anonymously”. You should now be able to view the site in the same way a US citizen can

This is an example of the everyday problem solving we carry out at Engage Web, but it also highlights how much traffic sites are missing out on by not being GDPR compliant, or worse still, the risks they take by continuing as normal without conforming to the legislation. For an engaging, GDPR-compliant site, speak to us today.

John Murray
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