Following yesterday’s deadly blast on İstiklal Avenue in Istanbul, Turkish authorities began restricting access to social media platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Telegram as a nationwide broadcast ban went into effect.
Turkish ISPs throttle social media after blast
Reports of a bomb blast taking place on Istanbul’s busy İstiklal street began circulating on Sunday, November 13th on social media platforms.
The explosion, which has now been deemed a terrorist attack, purportedly occurred at around 4:20 PM local time near Taksim Square and left at least 8 dead and 81 injured.
Warning: Sensitive content. Viewer discretion advised.
Breaking: Bomb attack on Istanbul’s istiklal street. Video captures moment of terror pic.twitter.com/yS79Sa6NmC
— Borzou Daragahi (@borzou) November 13, 2022
Following the tragic incident that sent chills down everyone’s spines, Turkish residents were met with another unexpected happening—a broadcast ban from Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) that discouraged dissemination of information related to the attack.
Turkish Internet Service Providers (ISPs) began throttling access to social media platforms Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Telegram:
Sources based in Turkey shared with BleepingComputer that they were unable to access social media apps restricting flow of updates and information concerning the incident. No significant disruption was reported by WhatsApp users, however.
After analyzing network traffic, internet watchdog NetBlocks confirmed that a widespread social media restriction was in effect across the nation, although access is being restored as of this morning.
“Real-time NetBlocks metrics show that social media and communications platforms Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and some Telegram servers were restricted from Sunday afternoon,” stated NetBlocks.
“The measure was initially implemented on leading network operator Turk Telekom, and subsequently extended to cover most major internet providers. Metrics are taken from an initial set of 50 vantage points across the country and corroborate user reports of service unavailability.”
Social media law sparks fears of censorship
Last month, Turkey’s “disinformation” law proposed by President Erdoğan’s ruling AK Party went into effect.
The law, which has been sharply criticized, penalizes social media users and journalists for spreading “fake news.” Anyone found guilty of spreading false information to “create fear and disturb public order” in Turkey faces up to three years in prison.
“With this new law…the goal is to control social media because conventional media is already under Erdogan’s control,” exiled Turkish journalist Sevgi Akarcesme had told CNBC in October.
Whereas, Ozgur Ogret, a Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) representative said the law impacts anybody with “the ability to speak, or read and write,” and can lead to self-censorship.