Turkey Doubles Down on Censorship With Block on VPNs, Tor

The Turkish government takes its fight against the free flow of information online one step further.

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Nov 4 2016, 9:20pm

Image: Presidencia de la Republica Mexicana/Flickr

In what's a significant escalation in its censorship efforts, the Turkish government now wants to block the very same tools that tech-savvy citizens use to get around the government-imposed social media blocks.

On Friday, the Turkish information technologies and communications authority, or BTK, ordered internet providers in the country to block Tor and several other censorship-circumvention Virtual Private Networks or VPNs, such as VPN Master, Hotspot Shield, Psiphon, Zenmate, TunnelBear, Zero, Vypr, Express, according to multiple local reports.

Earlier in the day, the government had already blocked Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and restrictions on messaging apps like WhatsApp and Skype were also reported. The independent monitoring organization TurkeyBlocks also reported throttling and other forms of censorship on Friday, linking the disruptions and blocks to the arrests of pro-Kurdish party leaders.

The Turkish government has had a long and controversial history of internet censorship in recent years, blocking Twitter, Facebook and other sites several times. All these blocks disrupted communications and news-spreading in the country, but also taught citizens the value of using circumventing tools to get around the restrictions. It seems that now the government wants to really stop citizens from accessing those sites.

Meanwhile, Turkey's new censorship efforts come at a time when several countries around the world, from Gabon to India, are experiencing similar government-driven internet blackouts, more proof that this is a new tool arbitrarily wielded by the authorities.