Facebook and Twitter crackdown in Turkey post-assassination

20 Dec 2016

Image: EFKS/Shutterstock

One day after Tor was blocked in Turkey, various social media services have gone down in the aftermath of a Russian ambassador being shot dead in Ankara.

Grisly scenes captured by news cameras in Ankara showing Russian ambassador Andrei Karlov being shot dead at an art gallery has seen the Turkish government close down several social media services.

Turkey Blocks, which monitors the internet to keep on top of various government-led crackdowns in recent years, reported Facebook, Twitter and YouTube blocked in the hours after Karlov’s fatal shooting.

“Neither the country’s most popular ISP, TTNet, nor mobile providers initially appeared to be affected,” according to Turkey Blocks.

Interestingly, the group claims this slowdown is different to what we’ve seen behind regular blockages in Turkey, though the differences in question are unclear as yet.

Yesterday, it emerged that Tor was also down in Turkey, which looked just like any other extension of the crackdown in online activity in the country.

VPN use was the target, with service providers complying with a ban that ultimately saw Tor go down. According to Turkey Blocks, Tor had emerged as a “last line of defence” against online censorship.

That’s because it’s a free, open, anonymised network that allows activists, journalists and everyone else to communicate in relative freedom.

“New, sophisticated blocking measures mean internet users will no longer be easily able to circumvent social media shutdowns and other mass-censorship events in Turkey, as they have become accustomed to over recent years,” said Turkey Blocks.

There are ways around this, according to the group, though these “bridged modes” are only available to “technically skilled users in the short term”.

In October, GitHub was blocked in the country, among other cloud services. This was followed up a month later with social media, much like today, under attack.

Restrictions on access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, Skype and Instagram emerged then in what was the first social media crackdown in several years.

Now, though, it appears like a potential go-to tactic.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic