Turkey could be a beautiful historical destination for tourists. But the freedom its crystal blue waters promise is sadly not something found in the country’s virtual world.
In fact, the Turkish government has blocked access to many online sites and services over the years – over 245,000 websites were banned between 2014 and 2018 alone, including Facebook and Wikipedia. When this happens, a Virtual Private Network – VPN – is the tool you need to circumvent online censorship.
It’s a service that can help you bypass blocked access to online destinations, so you can enjoy all the freedoms you might take for granted at home, even when using connections otherwise. restrictions of Turkey.
So, which sites are blocked in the country and why? And which Turkey VPN to choose exactly? We have the information you are looking for here.
Why does Turkey restrict access to so many services?
When it comes to social media censorship, Turkey is one of the world leaders. This means that access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Wikipedia has already been blocked inside the country. This happens intermittently, especially in times of political unrest.
For example, in 2019 Turkey blocked access to 408,000 sites, 40,000 tweets, 10,000 YouTube videos and 6,200 Facebook shares, according to online rights activist Sevket Uyanik.
The blocking is part of the country’s review of the Internet Law of 2007, which it continued in February 2014. This means that the Turkish government has passed an omnibus law that has further impacted Internet freedoms. As a result, the country is now classified by the Freedom House index as “Not Free”.
RSF1 World Press Freedom Index 2021 Norway 🇳🇴2 Finland 🇫🇮13 Germany 🇩🇪44 United States 🇺🇸111 Brazil 🇧🇷153 Turkey 🇹🇷180 Eritrea 🇪🇷#Turkey👇📌Government controls 90% national media censorship.📌 has reached unprecedented levels. https://t.co/dUwrnSebKw pic.twitter.com/yh2RWKDQqCApril 20, 2021
In 2021, the government introduced another law to take this even further. New internet legislation requires social media platforms with more than a million daily users – like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, for example – to appoint a local representative to enforce court orders to remove content. It also forces these companies to apply data localization practices, which means they must store user data in Turkey.
The reason for these restrictive laws? The country says it is trying to crack down on internet crime and determine responsibility. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be very surprising to see blanket bans in the future (much like the Great Firewall of China).
What services are prohibited in Turkey?
Over the years, Turkey has blocked more than 130 social media and news sites, including one of the country’s few remaining independent news sites, Bianet.org. A lot of individual content has also been blocked on the sites, so even if the site is accessible, the truth may not be exposed as clearly as expected.
As mentioned earlier, all major social media platforms were blocked at some point. These include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Periscope. You might also have trouble accessing online tools like Google Docs, Translate, Books, Analytics, or Tools as well as DropBox file sharing.
Even the likes of Wikipedia, Wikileaks, Blogspot and WordPress have been banned. Along with more dubious sites like YouPorn, The Pirate Bay and Megaupload. Sites including music platform Deezer and movie reviews IMDB were even blocked, as well as video sharing sites YouTube, Metacafe and Vimeo.
Of course, this list will be constantly evolving as these prohibitions are constantly changing. To check if certain content or sites are active, there is websites available which will help you facilitate this.
How VPN Technology Can Help Bypass Internet Censorship
With new bans constantly appearing and strict control of social media platforms, using a VPN is the best way to secure access to any type of information. In addition to that, this service will also protect your identity and other sensitive personal data.
A Virtual Private Network will help keep you free online by relaying your signal through one or more servers, making you appear where you are not. It hides your IP address and real location, while locking your data in an encrypted tunnel. This way, you will be able to access banned websites and apps as you normally would at home.
To better understand how this service works, check out our full explanation of what a VPN is.
Be sure to download and install your VPN before arriving in Turkey, just in case there are any installation issues there. Yes, it’s legal and there shouldn’t be, but better to play it safe. If you are already in the country and the VPN provider you have chosen has been blocked, you should contact their customer service. The best Turkish VPNs usually provide an alternative URL capable of bypassing the block.
Which VPN Should I Use in Turkey?
Our top picks ExpressVPN and NordVPN have both consistently proven they can bypass all restrictions in the world, providing excellent customer service if you run into any difficulties. They also combine a huge range of security features as well as server locations. While using a free VPN is likely to be frustrating due to its restricted usage and ad-heavy UX, we don’t recommend it – and you can always try a premium service risk-free with their €30 money back guarantee.
Just a step behind in our list, Surfshark is a perfect service if you want to bypass government bans while saving money. It is indeed one of the cheapest VPN services, combining quality and convenience. Its Noborders feature will make circumventing online censorship even easier. While its Camouflage mode will hide the fact that you are using a VPN.
Is the use of VPNs legal in Turkey?
As of this writing, using a VPN is completely legal. In fact, even though websites are banned, people are not legally responsible for accessing them with a virtual private network service.
However, you should always keep in mind that everything you do online is still subject to Turkish law. And anyone who publicly criticizes the nation can face up to two years in prison. Like Reported Policyaround 36,000 people – including more than 300 children – were investigated for insulting Erdoğan in 2019 alone.
Since your location and identity are masked by a VPN, the risk taken here should be less. Be warned, there is always a real risk to run if you criticize the Turkish authorities via your social media profile.
Are VPNs Banned in Turkey?
While most services are freely accessible, VPNs have been banned by Turkish authorities.
Already in November 2016, the Turkish Information and Communications Technology Authority forced Turkish ISPs to block access to Tor software and several VPN services. These included Hotspot Shield, Zenmate, TunnelBear, VyprVPN, and ExpressVPN. Now, the ban appears to be extended to all VPN providers.
To block traffic from VPN services, the government uses Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) – a tactic used by countries around the world to impose internet shutdowns focused on certain specific sites and/or connections.
The good news is that Turkish IT capabilities are nowhere near as efficient as China’s Great Firewall. Because DPI must first identify a VPN connection in order to block its traffic when it identifies it, services using obfuscation technology – like many of our favorites – can still work in Turkey even if they are banned.