Over the weekend, many Unblock-US customers took to social media to complain that they were unable to access the U.S. Netflix website, which offers a much larger catalogue of TV shows and movies than Canada’s.
At first, the company appeared to be responding to customer complaints on Facebook and Twitter – then their social media pages went silent about two days ago.
The company’s Facebook page appears to have been scrubbed clean of all its content. Its Twitter account now features one tweet directing users to its customer support page.
Oddly, the account was interacting with users intermittently on Wednesday.
What’s likely happening is that Unblock-US is the latest service to be blocked by Netflix. The company has begun taking aggressive action against those using Virtual private network (VPN) services to access content from other countries.
People around the world commonly use VPN services to access Netflix content that isn’t available in their market. But this violates the company’s distribution deals with major studios and content providers, which are negotiated on a regional basis.
In February, PayPal cut off payment services to Canadian VPN company UnoTelly, stating that the company’s services are against PayPal’s policies because they help users get around copyright restrictions. PayPal cut off services to Unblock-US that same month.
VPN services around the world have since been blocked by Netflix.
Global News contacted Unblock-US for comment regarding whether or not Netflix has taken action against its services; the request for comment was not returned.
Other VPN services are fighting back. According to a spokesperson with NordVPN, the company’s services still work with Netflix and they are working to ensure that doesn’t change.
“We are preparing and simulating a number of other workaround options in case the crackdown becomes more aggressive. We just hope the conversation shifts to address the fact that people are discouraged from securing their data online by being forced to choose between privacy and Netflix,” read a statement sent to Global News.
“According to the user feedback that we receive, many are abandoning Netflix in order to resort back to P2P sharing or are signing up to other streaming services, and express continuous support to VPNs.”
Canadian users becoming increasingly frustrated with Netflix
A quick search for “Canadian Netflix” on Twitter reveals pages of user complaints from those who appear to be growing tired of the Netflix VPN crackdown.
A petition by Canadian digital rights organization Open Media, accusing Netflix of forcing users to choose between content and digital privacy, has garnered over 43,000 signatures.
“Millions of people across Canada and the world use VPNs because they are probably the simplest, most user-friendly way to safeguard the privacy of their online activities. Given that such a huge percentage of the population uses Netflix, if they were all forced to stop using VPNs to access the shows they want, that would represent a major setback for privacy,” said Open Media communications director David Christopher.
“It’s simply not good enough for Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to describe his pro-privacy customers as ‘inconsequential.'”
It also seems even Canadians who don’t use VPN services are growing increasingly frustrated with Netflix’s content catalogue.
The Canadian version of Netflix currently offers around 4,000 movies and TV shows. The U.S. version offers about 7,000 for the same price. It’s also known to feature more recent Hollywood blockbusters and recent seasons of popular TV shows.
Netflix declined to comment on the ongoing controversy surrounding its VPN crackdown; however, the company did issue a statement to Global News regarding its ongoing promises to bring more content to Canada.
“We are increasingly securing global rights for the content we provide to our members around the world. While there are differences in catalogs between countries at various times depending on licensing agreements, our number one goal is always to provide the broadest selection of content to as many global members as possible,” Marlee Tart, manager of corporate communications said in an emailed statement.
The company also said it plans to add over 600 hours of original programming this year.