iPlayer blocking tor relays?

This topic was created by phuzz .

  1. phuzz Silver badge

    iPlayer blocking tor relays?

    We've recently started getting an error on the BBC iPlayer saying that we can't watch because we're outside the UK. However, our IP address from Virgin resolves to the correct location (Bristol) on every geolocation service I can find, and it's clearly a Virgin owned and registered IP.

    Every device and browser in our house has the same problem (although radio works fine, and I get the UK version of the BBC site).

    I've contacted the BBC, and got a stock response saying they'd look into it, but there's been no change for a week now.

    The only thing that's changed, is that I've started running a Tor relay node not long before we got blocked. I've double and triple checked that it's set up correctly as a relay, not an exit (ExitPolicy reject *:*), so all it's doing is passing traffic, not allowing people to watch iPlayer from outside the UK (I can understand why we'd get banned for that).

    Has anyone else had a similar problem? Googling only reveals a thread on the tor mailing list with a couple of other people having the same issue.

  2. phuzz Silver badge

    To reply to my own question, yes, the BBC is blocking Tor relays, not just exit nodes. As far as I can tell this is a relatively recent policy, and it's not documented anywhere that I could find.

    Dear Mr


    Thanks for contacting the BBC iPlayer Support Team.

    I'm sorry for the delay in replying.

    Although it's been a while since you contacted us, I want to reassure you that we did read your contact shortly after it was received. We check all the contacts sent to iPlayer support every morning, and if we spot a potential fault we'll escalate for further investigation.

    We understand you are encountering issues accessing BBC iPlayer.

    We sent this across to our technical team for further investigation and they have stated that there is evidence this IP is a Tor. No changes will be made at this time to this IP. You will need to stop using a Tor network so we can verify that you are in the UK and you will then be able to access iPlayer services.

    The BBC restricts access to certain content based on the geographic location of its users. We determine the location based on data in our GeoIP database. In some cases, however, we can't be sure of a given user's location. For instance, if someone accesses the internet via a VPN or proxy, our GeoIP database will give us the location of the associated VPN or proxy server, rather than of the actual end user. For this reason, if our GeoIP database indicates that an IP address is thought to be providing access for users in other countries, we block access to UK-restricted content.

    At present, Tor nodes are classed as proxies, regardless of whether or not they are an exit node. We are working to differentiating Tor exit nodes from non-exit relays, to allow us to block exit nodes only.

    Once again, thanks for taking the time to contact us.

    Kind Regards

  3. calumg

    Me too

    This explains why I keep getting blocked - in spite of not running an exit node (reject *:* as yourself). It also explains why their "remedy" is to reboot the router, which may assign me a new IP address for long enough to use the services I paid for for a while until everything gets synced again, and you are back to square one.

    1. Ben Tasker

      Re: Me too

      Bastards - that explains a few things for me too.

      I'd hazard a guess they've outsourced their GeoIP stuff (a lot of companies do) to a company that literally just pulls down the IP of all Tor Nodes, rather than checking whether they've got the exit flag.

      Will be moving my relay I think (had planned to anyway)

  4. Dan100

    Yep am experiencing the same thing, though I note that it's only Virgin Media customers having this trouble (I'm using Virgin).

    Thank you for this thread; while I suspected the BBC was blocking tor relays from iPlayer this is the first confirmation I've seen. Bastards indeed

    I've made a formal complaint and reported an iPlayer fault too -- if enough of us do it, we might become enough of a nuisance for the BBC to something about it.

    It's outrageous that the BBC is penalizing those who choose to support global freedom of expression.

    The only way out, that I know, is to put your router into modem mode just before the ip lease expires (see Network Status under Advanced in the Super Hub gui), then wait as long as you can bear in the hope you'll get a new ip address when you put the router back into cable mode. That's worked twice for me but is a real PITA.

  5. Dan100

    The trick, apparently, is to run a bridge relay instead of a standard relay. That way the BBC can't detect you and add you to their blocklist.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon