Turkey blocks 16 VPNs in a censorship crackdown: what we do, as a VPN, to fight back
Since late last year the Turkish government has launched an aggressive crackdown on VPN services that allowed users to access blocked websites, including those of popular news organizations.
VPNs under attack
A total of 16 virtual private network (VPN) services have been blocked, according to reports by DW Türkçe and other Turkish media. Among those who have fallen victim to the ongoing censorship spree are well-known names such as Proton, Surfshark, SuperVPN, and Psiphon, as well as Ipvanish. The ban stems from a directive issued by Turkey’s telecom regulator, the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICT) on November, 25. The directive reportedly required ISPs to not only curb access to blocked websites in accordance with the 2014 Internet Law, but also to report back to the ICT on the success of their efforts. That, according to a recent report by the Financial Times, has made the latest anti-VPN campaign by the Turkish government “more effective than in the past.”
Alarming pattern of online censorship
It’s not the first time Turkey has imposed severe curbs on Internet freedom — over the past decade, Ankara has shut down access to YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, albeit temporarily. Usually, a new set of restrictions would coincide with a major political event or domestic unrest. This time seems to be no exception. It is widely believed that the current wave of restrictions is related to the upcoming regional elections in Turkey, which will take place on March 31, and in which the ruling party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes to regain some lost ground.
Our role in empowering Turkish users
At AdGuard VPN, we believe that unfettered access to information is a fundamental human right and that censorship is never an answer to concerns for public safety and order, no matter how legitimate they may be. That’s why we stand with our Turkish users who may have already faced or are to face problems with accessing alternative sources of information.
Recognizing the importance of staying in the loop, especially during the time of major political events, we have decided to support our Turkish users by giving them 10GB of free traffic for the next month. This applies to both existing and newly registered users. So far, our VPN service has not been targeted by the restrictions. However, we also believe that if the Turkish regulator were to get a whiff of our VPN, we would still be able to provide the service to our users in the country. In recent years, we have successfully dealt with restrictions imposed by the governments in Russia, China, and Iran, among others.
What helps us to remain optimistic and stay ahead of the curve is our own VPN protocol, which is nearly impossible to distinguish from “normal” non-VPN traffic. That makes it harder for censors to flag the connection to AdGuard VPN and block it.
In addition, in order to empower our Turkish users even more, we are offering them an 83% discount off AdGuard VPN 2-year subscription.