- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 5, 2016

Facebook, Twitter and other popular websites were reportedly blocked in Turkey on Friday amid widespread service interruptions that sidelined some social media and messaging applications for the first time ever.

TurkeyBlocks, a group that monitors internet restrictions in the country, said it detected restrictions starting around 1:20 a.m. local time Friday morning. Those interruptions coincided with a series of night raids in the cities of Diyarbakir and Ankara that resulted in the arrests of multiple members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, or the HDP, a leftist opposition party.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim didn’t explicitly say the bans were implemented by the government but said “from time to time for security reasons we can use such measures.”

“These are temporary measures. Once the danger is passed, everything returns to normal,” he told reporters in Istanbul, according to AFP.

Amid the raids, TurkeyBlocks says access was being restricted to websites including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Skype and Instagram, “validating widespread user complaints about WhatsApp service failure in Turkey.”

WhatsApp, an encrypted-messenger application owned by Facebook, had not previously been restricted across Turkey in this manner, the monitoring group said. Previously it was reported that the app was used by opposition leaders in order to plot the failed coup that attempted to overthrow the Turkish government in July.

According to TurkeyBlocks, Friday’s restrictions were caused by Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, throttling connections across the country. It said it first detected problems affecting users of TTNet, the nation’s largest internet service provider, and later saw similar issues with other major providers.

“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,” TurkeyBlocks said, noting that experts say social media throttling has been implemented frequently in the past following terror attacks “to censor media coverage and permit the authorities a degree of control over narrative.”

Among those detained in the late night raids were 11 HDP politicians who were wanted for refusing to testify with respect to crimes linked to “terrorist propaganda,” Reuters reported.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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