Demand for VPN services in Turkey increased by 853 percent on Sunday, when the Turkish government imposed a restriction on social media platforms following a deadly explosion in İstanbul, Turkish media reported on Tuesday, citing top10vpn.com.
Six people were killed and 81 others wounded on Sunday when an explosion rocked İstiklal Avenue, a busy pedestrian street that runs through İstanbul’s central district of Beyoğlu.
Following the blast, the Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK) limited the bandwidth of social media and communications platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and some Telegram servers for 10 hours, and the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, announced a media ban on the topic of the explosion.
After the government’s internet censorship went into effect, Turkey’s internet users’ turned to VPN in order to circumvent the restrictions.
The demand for VPN services in the country increased by 853 percent, compared to the daily average over the previous 30 days, according to top10vpn.com, which publishes the results of experts’ investigative, independent research into VPN, digital rights and security matters.
Turkey has a longstanding policy of restricting access to social media platforms following explosions, political incidents and terrorist attacks, and it has been criticized for limiting access to support and assistance and curtailing press freedom in times of emergency.
However, the latest of such measures was the first implemented by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government since a controversial media law that attracted widespread criticism from rights groups and the opposition on accusations that it will further cripple free speech took effect in October.
Although the law has mainly been criticized for requiring jail time of up to three years for social media users and journalists due to posts that spread “disinformation” and are deemed a threat to national security or public health, it also builds on legislation imposed on social media companies in 2020, with much tougher measures.
According to the law, social media companies are required to appoint Turkish representatives and face bandwidth being cut by up to 90 percent immediately after a court order should the representative fail to share with authorities users’ information if they post content constituting crimes, including misleading information.