Unfortunately, under Erdoğan’s leadership an increasingly large number of websites have been blocked.
Bans have been harsh and unexpected, none more so than Wikipedia, which was banned in April 2017.
The image hosting site Imgur has also been banned in Turkey, following an incident where two men took a district attorney hostage, and posted an image of him at gunpoint on the website.
The online forum Reddit has been banned too, but this decision was almost immediately undone.
Imgur on the other hand remains blocked. There is very little transparency from the Turkish government, so it is hard to tell when a website might go down and whether or not it will come back online.
In July 2019 the Turkish language news site bianet.org was also banned. This was particularly alarming, as Bianet is one of very few independent news sources operating in Turkey.
It later emerged that the ban was made by accident, and only specific articles were supposed to be blocked. That such serious action could be taken so casually demonstrates the need to run a VPN in Turkey, where online resources can be closed off without warning or justification.
The other 135 independent news sites were not as lucky as Bianet, and remain offline.
Media sites are required to apply for a special licence to broadcast to Turkey. Netflix has applied for this licence and claims it won’t be censoring any content. We won’t be surprised if shows depicting non-heterosexual relationships get re-edited or simply come off the Turkish version of the site, though.
LGBT+ content and news have been a persistent target for censorship, offline and online. Istanbul Pride has been repeatedly banned and in September 2019 TikTok banned all depictions of homosexuality from its platform in Turkey.
The gay dating app Grindr was banned in Turkey all the way back in 2013, well before the more recent censorship escalations.
Social media blockages are particularly severe when “wartime” restrictions come into effect.
Most recently, a huge number of social media sites were brought down in Southern Turkey while the Turkish Armed Forces and the Free Syrian Army moved to invade Syria against the Kurdish PKK and YPG, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring”.
Banning just part of the country is part of the growing technological capabilities of Turkey’s censorship regime.
Social media services routinely blocked in Turkey include:
- Facebook Messenger
The Twitter account @TurkeyBlocks provides real-time coverage when these services go down.
If you want to access these sites and services during a government blackout you need to have a VPN or another method of circumnavigating your ISP’s firewall.