In late 2016 reports surfaced that Turkey had ordered ISPs to block access to Tor and several commercial VPN services. On 5 December, ISP industry representatives Turk Internet reported growing pressure to complete the ban, including demands for weekly progress reports on the status of the new technical restrictions. Users started reporting connectivity issues around the same time.
Turkey typically cuts access to individual sites by court order or administrative measure to permanently restrict access to services on grounds of morality and state security. In recent years, the government has also started to shut down social media networks entirely for hours or days during national emergencies and political unrest – a form of network interference that the Turkey Blocks project was founded to investigate.
Internet users in Turkey increasingly resort to VPNs and Tor to circumvent both kinds of censorship, allowing them, for example, to access independent sources of information and seek assistance in the minutes and hours following terror attacks.
Summary of findings
Turkey Blocks finds that the Tor direct access mode is now restricted for most internet users throughout the country; Tor usage via bridges including obfs3 and obfs4 remains viable, although we see indications that obfs3 is being downgraded by some service providers with scope for similar on restrictions obfs4. The restrictions are being implemented in tandem with apparent degradation of commercial VPN service traffic.