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Turkey blocks social media access for 16 hours after Syria airstrike

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By Seana Davis  & Alastair Jamieson
Turkey blocks social media access for 16 hours after Syria airstrike
Copyright  Euronews
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Turkey blocked its citizens from accessing social media platforms after an airstrike in Syria, according to an internet monitoring group.

Data from the NetBlocks internet observatory shows Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram became unreachable at 11:30 pm local time (22:30 CET) on Thursday on national provider Turk Telecom and subsequently other leading service providers.

“Data shows that YouTube and WhatsApp messaging backend servers were also partially restricted at the same time or shortly after,” NetBlocks said in a report.

On Friday NetBlocks confirmed that social media access was being restored after 16 hours.

Alp Toker, director of NetBlocks, told Euronews that the social media outages were "somewhat unprecedented in recent times".

"Turkey has a history of social media restrictions - these frequently during times of crisis and during military incursions and events ... instances which related to Syria.

"But since then, Turkey has become something of a social media leader in the region, and it was really unexpected in 2020 that something like this could happen on this scale".

"There's a real fear that this is a return to the bad old days."

'People are used to circumventing social media censorship'

In January, access to Wikipedia was restored in Turkey after a ban of more than two years.

"People in Turkey are used to circumventing social media censorship, it's a way of life in a way," said Toker.

"Even government authorities have said that they access information via VPNs (virtual private networks)".

"But perhaps the people who most need information are being left out."

Ankara does not appear to have publically announced that restrictions on social media access would be put in place on Friday.

Euronews has contacted Turkey’s director-general of security for a statement.

NetBlocks say the measures may have been put in place in relation to the deployment of forces in Syria, in an attempt to curb the spread of misinformation.

The airstrike, which killed at least 33 troops in Idlib, was the largest death toll for Turkey in a single day since it first intervened in Syria in 2016 against Russia-backed forces.

Turkey hosts some 3.6 million Syrians and made a deal with the EU to step up efforts to halt the flow of refugees.

But Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to “open the gates".

Watch Seana Davis' report on Good Morning Europe above.