Turkey is reportedly blocking access to Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube following the arrests of at least 11 pro-Kurdish politicians.
According to Internet monitoring group Turkey Blocks, access to these sites has been throttled at the ISP level and is apparently affecting “the majority of Internet users.” The current Internet user headcount in Turkey is understood to stand at more than 47 million out of a population just shy of 75 million.
Its most recent report, posted on Thursday night, says that almost all major ISPs—starting with national provider TTNet and Turkcell—are affected. Users of UyduNet and some smaller providers were apparently still online, at time of testing.
— Turkey Blocks (@TurkeyBlocks) November 3, 2016
Instagram and Skype are apparently also being choked. TurkeyBlocks said: “Internet restrictions are increasingly being used in Turkey to suppress media coverage of political incidents, a form of censorship deployed at short notice to prevent civil unrest.”
Media reports have begun linking the outages to the arrests of Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, the co-leaders of the country’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP). Demirtas was dubbed the Kurdish Obama last year, after he guided his party to 13 percent of the vote in last year’s elections, pulling in 59 MPs.
His liberal instincts are seen as a barrier to the plans of authoritarian Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Demirtas and Yuksekdag have faced a number of separate investigations over the last few months, though this is the first arrest. Turkish MPs are normally exempt from prosecution, but the HDP had their immunity waived earlier in the year.
According to the Guardian, at least 10 other HDP parliamentarians were also detained, their lawyers have said. This, we’re told, represents “a major escalation” in the Turkish government’s crackdown against its political opponents since the failed coup on July 15.
Turkey has been plagued by Internet shutdowns in recent weeks. Millions were cut off in the southeast, a move which TurkeyBlocks claimed “prevent[ed] the supply of medical supplies to patients and crippl[ed] infrastructure.” The previous day, Internet access was cut off throughout most of the country, during protests after the mayor of the city of Diyarbakir, Gultan Kısanak, and his deputy, Firat Anli, were arrested on terrorism charges.
According to the monitors, “social media throttling has been implemented frequently following national emergencies like terror attacks to censor media coverage and permit the authorities a degree of control over narrative.”
This post originated on Ars Technica UK