Turkey Blocks Access To Social Media, Popular Messaging Services, Amidst Social Unrest
The world first saw the power of the internet and social media to promote social change in the Arab Spring of 2010. Since then, governments around the world have found ways to block either social media or cut off all internet access in times of social unrest. The latest reports of such a move come from Turkey, where social media has been restricted starting this morning at 1:20 Turkey time.
The Turkish internet monitoring site Turkey Blocks reports that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have been blocked since early this morning and were still down through midday. They also report restrictions on popular messaging apps, including WhatsApp, Skype, and Instagram. According to their data, this is the first time “in recent years” that WhatsApp — which was seen an explosive in popularity worldwide in the past few years — has seen restrictions across the country.
Although Turkey Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım states the shutdown is part of "security measures" taken by the government, it’s commonly believed that they’re due to the recent detention of opposition party members. Salon reports that on Thursday night, the offices of the leftist, pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) were raided by government forces and detention orders were issued for 15 members, including the co-chairs of the party. These detentions are just the latest in the string of approximately 40,000 people who have been arrested since a failed coup attempt in July.
The Turkish government is not the first, nor will it be the last, government to block internet access with the hopes of squashing social movements. The internet has become instrumental across the world both for communicating with members of a movement on services like WhatsApp and for sharing what’s happening with the broader world, as protestors did when they utilized Twitter during the Arab Spring.
There is, however, one way that web-savvy Turks — and people from almost anywhere else in the world that are experiencing government-imposed Internet restrictions — can regain access to the services they rely on: VPNs, like Tenta. The sites have been taken down or restricted via throttling, which is an intentional slow down of service by an internet service provider. By using a VPN to reroute their ISPs, people can circumvent the slowed down networks and access the social media sites and messaging services they need to organize.
Once an on-again, off-again problem, it would seem that internet censorship is becoming the norm in Turkey. Considering the importance of internet access to modern-day organizing and protest, it’s time for Turkish citizens and any other people suffering from internet censorship to get on the VPN bandwagon.
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