Since I’ve been living in Ukraine, I often find I am unable to reach this blog. Sometimes all I get is a white page, other times I receive a message stating the site cannot be reached and it might be temporarily down or it may have moved permanently to a new web address.
The first time it happened, I believed my site really was down and contacted the hosting company. They confirmed everything was working fine.
I investigated the matter and discovered the domain steve-calvert.co.uk appears to be blocked in Ukraine. Though, so far it is not blocked all of the time. This blog is hosted on a subdomain of the site. I also have an old horror blog on another subdomain. The main site is my horror writing and review site. All three sites have gone down in the past, due to technical difficulties with the server, but I’ve never known all three to go down together. My browser has been lying to me. The sites are available but they appear to be getting blocked.
I used several browsers to try and access my main site and the two blogs. I had the same problem in Google Chrome, Opera, Firefox, and Internet Explorer.
Several months ago I added a VPN extension to Firefox. I rarely use it, but sometimes it comes in handy when I’m doing research for articles. I set it so that my IP address appeared to be located in the Netherlands. All my sites worked just fine. I switched the location to the US and, again, all my sites were up and running.
When I tried to access my site again, without the help of the VPN, I still got the message same message: “This site can’t be reached.” Yet I could reach it fine by masking my true location. It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. Why are my blogs and website blocked in Ukraine? I can’t say for certain, but I have an idea.
I did some research and discovered the government in Ukraine has been blocking Russian websites and social networks for quite some time. That seems a bit harsh on the average Ukrainian citizen who wants to use the sites and networks but it’s understandable why the government chose to do this in response to the Russia’s military incursions into Ukrainian territory in 2014 and the ongoing situation in Crimea. However, my domain is not hosted on Russian servers. It’s hosted in the UK. Nor do any of the sites have links into Russian websites.
So here’s my theory about why my blogs and website are blocked in Ukraine: I think it could be due to third-party advertising.
All three sites use contextual advertising. The ads displayed on the page can differ greatly from one person to the next. The location the sites are being accessed from affects the ads as well. The ads are often regional specific.
When I visited my own sites from Spain, for instance, the ads displayed were generally in Spanish because Spanish companies were paying to display them there. In Germany, the ads were for German companies.
This problem has cropped while I am living in Odessa. Although the people in Odessa can speak Ukranian, they normally speak Russian. It seems possible that Russian companies may be paying to display ads on my site. This could be why my blogs and website are blocked in Ukraine, but I cannot be 100% sure. I don’t pick and choose the ads that are displayed. Google does. The advertising space in different countries of the world is allocated to the highest bidders.
When I first became aware of the problem and began doing some research, I did not find anyone who was reporting a similar experience. However, if my websites is blocked in Ukraine I’m sure other sites are as well. In my case, it’s no big deal. My sites receive very little traffic from Ukraine and I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. I just find it interesting the way my browser is telling something that is obviously untrue. In the past, I’ve encountered many error messages telling my certain sites could not be reached but, to my knowledge, this is the first time the error message has been a lie.
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