Turks Flock to Tor after Government Blocked Popular Social Media Sites

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Turkish government has blocked a widely shared method of circumventing its recently imposed ban on the social media network.

The hard-fought censorship battle going on between the Turkish government and its citizens is still raging as Turkish citizens are finding more and more ways to avoid the government’s measures to stop them from accessing social media sites.

So far, Turkey has banned over 100,000 sites including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, leaving its enterprising citizens to seek new ways to let their voices be heard on a global scale.

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Widespread Social Media Ban Still Ongoing

The Turks are without a doubt a determined bunch because despite the nationwide social media ban, they had still managed to make the #TurkeyBlockedTwitter hashtag rank high on the globally trending list.

Turks achieved this by using special web accessing software such as VPN and now, Tor.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the nationwide censorship on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in a bid to silence the online political criticism from activists who were bent on exposing Turkey’s human rights violations to the world.

In addition to all the popular social media sites, the instant messaging platform was also not spared, with popular services such as Skype, WhatsApp, and Telegram being added to the list of banned sites.

Tor and VPNs Take Center Stage as Anti-Censorship Tools

Following the statement of the ban, popular VPNs and Tor have served as the only alternative for users looking to avoid the government’s censorship.

Tor has seen notably increased usage in Turkey, with the figures showing that close to 10,000 people have begun using the anonymizing web software.

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According to certified usage metrics from Tor, their Turkish user base has grown from 18,000 users to 25,000 users since the government initiated the social media ban.

Not one to rely on half-measures, the Turkish president moved to counter the increase of users opting for the censorship circumvention tool, Tor, by ordering Turkish internet providers to block access for Tor and the various VPNs that are being used.

The move has been mildly successful and has hindered a few people from connecting to the internet using Tor.

However, it has countered the situation by providing a method of connection that will make it a lot harder to block its users.

Bridge relays or bridges, provide an alternative connection route that prevents internet providers from knowing whether users are accessing the internet using Tor and thereby, incapable of blocking them out.

ISP’s Censorship Methods Effective

While there is no clear way to tell whether internet providers have successfully managed to block out Tor and a VPN or two, the spike in the usage of Tor bridges and the corresponding decrease in the number of direct connections indicates that their censorship methods are, in fact, effective.

A member of the Tor Project who is also an independent security researcher, Nima Fatemi, explained that the increased usage of Tor bridges does indeed indicate that the government’s censorship, even on direct Tor connections, is working.

She spoke in an online chat with Motherboard and explained how using Tor bridges is a bit more inconvenient than it is to connect directly using Tor.

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This showed that connecting directly using Tor was indeed ideal for most users and that Turkish internet providers were using effective censorship methods.

According to Ahmet A. Sabancı, a journalist, and researcher based in Turkey’s capital Istanbul, internet providers are yet to implement their censorship methods.

Due to the fact that VPN usage is still relatively smooth and hitch-free, he believes that they are still planning on how best to execute the government’s orders to ban Tor and VPN usage.

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