Tor usage in Turkey surges during Twitter ban

Since Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan implemented a ban on Twitter late last week, Tor usage in the country has surged -- with connections nearly doubling from around 25,000 direct connects in the country to over 40,000, according the the anonymous browsing tool's internal metrics.

At first the Twitter ban was relatively easy to circumvent and quickly backfired as Twitter exploded with activity in the country. Because most ISPs were implementing the ban by Domain Name System redirection, users could simply change their DNS server to rely on a public server outside the country who wasn't engaging in the same misdirection. But on Saturday, researchers saw a shift in the way the block was implemented. Instead of DNS redirection, Twitter now appears to be blocked at the IP level.

But there are still a few ways to circumvent the ban, including using a Virtual Private Network to forge an encrypted tunnel outside of Turkey, using SMS (the method tweeted about by Twitter's policy account near the beginning of blocking efforts), and Tor. Because the anonymous browsing tool reroutes users' traffic through onion nodes throughout the world, it helps users bypass local censorship.

While there is a bit of a learning curve to Tor, it's clearly gaining traction in Turkey since the ban began:


(Tor Metrics)

(H/T  @FredericJacobs)

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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Andrea Peterson | March 22