Yesterday’s Sunday was not a typical, quiet Sunday for Turkish citizens.
Six people were killed and more than 80 were injured in the blast bomb attack (opens in a new tab) that shook up a busy pedestrian street in the center of Istanbul. The blast occurred around 4 p.m. local time, but no one has yet claimed responsibility for the blast.
However, the strikes did not end offline because Erdoğan’s government also limited citizens’ access to the Internet.
Several social media platforms have been restricted, and Turkey’s communications regulator RTUK has even banned domestic media from talking about the explosion, NetBlocks reported.
As always, in such cases, VPN downloads in Turkey skyrocketed in the country as people looked for a way to bypass such disruptions.
⚠️ Confirmed: 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; authorities issued a broadcast ban after the incident📰 Report: pic.twitter.com/75DMsF5QLiNovember 13, 2022
What’s going on in Turkey on the Internet?
“Turkey has a long-standing policy of restricting access to social media platforms after explosions, political incidents and terrorist attacks,” NetBlocks wrote in its report. “However, the policy has been criticized for limiting access to support and assistance and limiting press freedom in times of crisis.”
Multiple social media platforms were affected, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and some Telegram servers.
The Turkish Information and Communications Technology Authority (BTK) later confirmed that the blackout was imposed to allegedly prevent misinformation about the explosion from spreading online.
“Once again, we see governments using internet access to manipulate citizens and control narratives,” Hide.me CEO Sebastian Schaub told TechRadar.
However, citizens now have the technical knowledge and tools to circumvent these restrictions with just a few clicks. And when the internet goes dark, the best VPN services are usually the number one software to download.
This is because a VPN is not only a tool that encrypts transmitted data to protect people’s anonymity online, but also spoofs users’ location so that they can access censored sites without any problems.
For example, Hide.me confirmed that VPN usage has increased by a staggering 500% in the last 24 hours. While the data comes from Tracking Top10VPN (opens in a new tab) shows an overall increase in downloads of over 850%.
After 10 long hours, access to social networking sites was restored.
What is certain is that Turkish users will keep their bypass tool ready for use when the authorities again decide to disrupt their internet access.