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VPN demand likely to rise in wake of Turkey social media clampdown

A deadly bombing in Istanbul has prompted a government crackdown on social media platforms in Turkey, raising fears that once again a national emergency could be being used as an excuse to curtail digital freedoms there.

The announcement came from cyber-freedom watchdog NetBlocks, which posted both on its own website and Twitter in the wake of the suspected November 13 terrorist attack, which has claimed at least six lives in the major Turkish city.

“Live network data shows that social media platforms Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook have been restricted in Turkey after a deadly explosion in Taksim, Istanbul,” it said. “The social media restrictions in Turkey are consistent with past censorship measures used amid political incidents and terror attacks.”

NetBlocks said the restrictive measure was initially taken on leading national network operator Turk Telekom, “and subsequently extended to cover most major internet providers.”

The web freedom group said it used metrics collated from “an initial set of 50 vantage points across the country” to “corroborate user reports of service unavailability.”

Tweeted screenshot of blocked platforms
Cyber watchdog NetBlocks shares list of sites restricted by authorities in Turkey.

Virtual private network (VPN) demand surged in Turkey by more than 800% in 2020, after authorities blocked social media platforms in response to an attack on Turkish troops stationed in Syria.

“Turkey has a longstanding policy of restricting access to social media platforms following explosions, political incidents and terror attacks,” said NetBlocks. “However, the policy has been criticised for limiting access to support and assistance, and curtailing press freedom in times of emergency.”

The Turkish government argues that it has imposed the social media ban to prevent the spread of “disinformation” about the attack, which some are blaming on Kurdish separatists in the region.

However, NetBlocks added that “first responders and journalists who need to communicate can circumvent the ban using VPN services such as Surfshark.”

To avail yourself of a VPN, please browse our handpicked selection of the best Turkey VPNs in 2022.

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