Occasional workaround for reading US websites which are skittish about EU visitors, GDPR and cookies

tl;dr version
Search for the URL itself, read the cached copy.

Audio version of this post:

Recently there has been a spate of American news sites returning a page that says the content isn’t available to me since I’m in the UK / EU and, because I’m subject to some unspecified horror to do with the GDPR and cookies, the website is worried about me seeing it and hopes I might just go away.

About 90 per cent of the time this problem is rapidly solved by searching for and reading Google’s cache of the page. The appearance may be a little different but the text is usually there and perfectly readable. Here’s an example of how to do this.

Yesterday I wanted to read the awful story about a young black woman who died after it was assumed she’d not be able to pay for the ambulance service that she needed. Her mother had found her slumped in the bath after she’d collapsed with a suspected stroke. She’d given birth via C section a few days before.

Here’s the address I clicked on (via a tweet)

https://www.wpbf.com/article/mom-of-woman-who-died-claims-medics-assumed-daughter-couldn-t-afford-ambulance-ride/22558170

On clicking the link the page said

Screenshot 2018-07-28 11.04.50.png
Fig 1. “Sorry, this content is not available in your region.”

Try this – it doesnt always work though
The next stage is to copy that address / URL (the wpbf.com bit next to the green padlock) – the quickest way to do that is to put the cursor into that address bar, it should automatically select the URL but if not Ctrl+A will do that. Then Ctrl+C to copy and open a new tab with your preferred search engine and paste (Ctrl+V) into the search bar and search [see also: handy keyboard shortcuts]

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Fig 2. Search results returned after searching for the web address / URL itself

Ignore the top stories option. You might just about be able to make out a tiny little green arrowhead pointing downwards to the right of the green URL for this search result. That’s where Google hides the cache of its pages. Here’s a close-up.

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Fig 3. Where to find cached copies of pages, if available

Clicking on the green arrow will bring up a menu saying ‘Cached’ and clicking on that usually, but not always, bring up the page you want – it did in this case too.

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Fig 4. In this instance the cached copy was available and readable

The entire text is visible but for copyright reasons I’ll leave it at that. Here’s the link if you want to read it yourself, it’s a sobering read.

This is a very useful and more widely applicable trick
There are other cases (*cough*) where content isn’t shown to you, for all sorts of un-GDPR related reasons. It is nearly always worth checking the cached version first before either admitting defeat, asking a friend for a copy or reading a different newspaper’s story.

For the exceptionally patient
At the bottom of Fig 2 there’s a paragraph of text beneath the green URL and the green padlock. Google can nearly always read the page (whether there’s a cached version or not) even if you can’t. If you search for a phrase that appears there (put it in ” ” marks when searching) then Google will show that phrase in the search results, often in context which means it may show other bits of surrounding text. Frankly it takes ages but it may be possible (I’ve done it to uncover and reference a quote for work once) to work your way through very slowly and uncover a large portion or even the entirety of the otherwise hidden text.

Further reading
Google cache (& other search engines): finding deleted pages or seeing your words on the page in colour (this blog)

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How to find text quickly on a web page or in a file

There’s a very useful keyboard shortcut that will let you jump straight to a word or phrase (or any sequence of letters or numbers1) in almost any document or file – it’s Ctrl+F2.

PDFs
If you’ve opened a 200 page PDF and want to find the word WIDGET then use Ctrl+F to bring up a ‘find’ search box and type in the word widget. Pressing ‘enter’ on the keyboard will let you bounce through each of instance of the word in the document. Depending on your set up some PDF readers will also let you see a panel with all instances of WIDGET in it, in the sentence, allowing you to see a bit of context and decide which one to look at first.

Word documents
Ctrl+F again. You can also change all instances of WIDGET into GADGET by using Ctrl+H (Shift + Command + H on a Mac) to bring up the Find & Replace option, type widget in the top box and gadget in the bottom (make a decision on upper or lower case matching) and press replace all to convert all widgets to gadgets. True story, I once did this in a spreadsheet of people’s names and addresses and converted all instances of UK into United Kingdom and then discovered someone’s first name had become LUnited Kingdome instead of Luke. Should have selected just the country column but I could also have avoided that by better case-matching.

Excel spreadsheets
Within the sheet you’re on Ctrl+F will do the job but note the option on the search box (below) that appears which lets you pick whether to search within the current sheet or the whole workbook (ie find your word in a cell in a different tab).

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 23.24.17

Notes
1 you don’t even have to type the full word, just enough letters to pick out the word you want and exclude those you don’t, for example if searching for widget then ‘widge’ would probably do whereas ‘idget’ would also find ‘fidget’.

2 Ctrl+F = holding down the Control key while the letter F is pressed, for Find. On a Mac it’s the Command key instead of Control. You can also access Find in the Edit menu.

Further reading