Several social media platforms are inaccessible to users in Turkey in the latest social media. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and WhatsApp are among the social networks blocked in the latest case of internet censorship in the country.
Social media are often targeted during times of political unrest in Turkey, and the frequency of such shut downs seems to be increasing. The latest incident involved the arrest of several pro-Kurdish politicians–political opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. At least two major ISPs are now blocking social media sites.
If you’re living in or traveling to Turkey, there’s never been a more critical time to use a VPN. Short for virtual private network, a VPN encrypts all of a device’s internet traffic and routes it through a server of the user’s choosing.
With a VPN enabled and connected to another country, users can unblock all restricted social media, as well as other websites and apps. Internet service providers, who implement the blocks on behalf of government authorities, can not know the final destination of your internet traffic nor what it contains.
It’s important to note that Turkish authorities have caught on to VPN users and started blocking certain providers. That’s why Comparitech reached out directly to several VPN providers to confirm which ones are still up and running.
Our criteria for choosing which VPNs are best for unblocking social media in Turkey are as follows:
- Not blocked in Turkey
- Uses OpenVPN protocol with strong encryption
- No traffic logs
- Fast customer support
- Unlimited bandwidth and data
- Built-in port forwarding is a big plus (more on this further down)
ExpressVPN was listed alongside several other VPN providers as being blocked, according to local news sites, but we have confirmed with the company that it is up and running inside Turkey. Express is a tad on the pricey side but it’s money well spent for a logless, limitless, heavily-encrypted connection to your choice of nearly 80 countries. Port forwarding is not included. Customer support staff are available on live chat 24/7. There’s a no quibbles 30 day money back Guarantee with ExpressVPN so you can try it risk free, there’s also a deal here for 3 months extra free with 12 month plans.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN here.
StrongVPN tells us it is working in Turkey right now. While we don’t care for the interface much, StrongVPN is pretty much unbeatable when it comes to unblocking stuff. It can bypass everything from China’s Great Firewall to US Netflix’s proxy ban. Not all servers support OpenVPN, but those that do are armed with 256-bit AES encryption. The service is completely logless, and there are no limits on bandwidth or data. Customer support relies on a ticket submission system, but in our experience they usually reply within five minutes. StongVPN currently have 41% of their annual plan here. Update November 18, 2016: You can receive an additional 15% on annual plans here, add the code ‘SAVE15’ at checkout, which will apply the extra saving in addition to the standard 41% discount on 12 month plans.
PureVPN confirmed as of time of writing that it still functions from within Turkey. It’s easy to use, fast, and has a ton of servers to choose from. All traffic is encrypted over OpenVPN and no traffic logs are kept. Live chat support is available on the site. Bandwidth and data are unlimited.
Read our full review of PureVPN here.
NordVPN is going strong in Turkey. One of our top-rated VPNs, the provider offers some of the strongest security features available including Tor over VPN, Double VPNs, and anti-DDoS connections. With up to six simultaneous connections, it’s also one of the most generous plans for the price. NordVPN is completely logless and based in Panama–far beyond the reach of government-run spy agencies. It can also unblock anti-VPN streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. You can get NordVPN for the discounted price of $4 per month here, just add the code ’50off’ at checout.
Read our full review of NordVPN here.
VyprVPN was also reportedly targeted by Turkish authorities, but the company told us today that it is operating as usual from within the country. VyprVPN is one of the few providers that actually owns all of its own physical server infrastructure, rather than renting out space from someone else. That means connections are private and fast. Add in VyprVPN’s bespoke Chameleon protocol for an extra fee, and you’ll be protected from just about everything. There’s currently a deal here that lets you try VyprVPN free for 3 days and discounts the first month’s access by 50% if you want to keep it.
Read our full review of VyprVPN here.
Update January 3, 2017: PIA has informed us that some users are having trouble connecting to the service.
“We do have alternate connection methods that can help bypass these limitations; if you’re interested in receiving the steps to get the VPN back up and running, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know which operating system you are using on your device(s).”
PIA was named in the ban but staff have informed us it is still working. Built with security in mind, PIA let’s you tweak security settings including encryption level.. It’s not a looker, but for the low price you can’t ask for much more. Every subscription allows five simultaneous devices and it runs on every major device OS including Linux. Customer support is fantastic. At the time of writing PIA has a 51% discount on 12 month plans here.
Which VPNs are blocked in Turkey?
While we can’t test every single VPN out there, here are the VPNs listed by local news sources as being targed by Turkish authorities:
- VPN Master
- Hotspot Shield
- Zero VPN
Additionally, Tor connections are reportedly being blocked by ISPs.
Are VPNs legal in Turkey?
Yes, using a VPN is legal in Turkey. While Turkey began taking steps to block access to Tor and VPN services late last year, it is not illegal to actually use one. We’ve seen no reports of anyone being arrested or charged with a crime simply for using a VPN.
That being said, what residents of Turkey do online while connected to the VPN is still subject to the laws and regulations of Turkey. We do not encourage readers to break the law while using a VPN, even though the VPN is intended to hide your online activity.
Furthermore, Turkish authorities have been rather active in 2017 when it comes to blocking access to VPN servers. We’ve received several comments saying that the VPNs we recommended have been blocked, but thankfully these blocks were only temporary. They have been rectified by the VPN companies and continue to operate, but users should still expect occasional downtime.
VPN not working in Turkey? Try port forwarding
While we weren’t able to test it ourselves on the ground, some users on Reddit reported successfully bypassing VPN blocks by using a technique called port forwarding.
Basically, the Turkish authorities have two methods of blocking VPNs. The first is to identify every VPN server in the world and add it to a blacklist to be blocked by ISP’s firewalls. Because this would consume a lot of time and resources and need to be continuously performed, it’s likely only a handful of VPNs are being targeted.
The second method is to block internet traffic traveling to and from ports that are often used by VPNs. Different ports are utilized for specific purposes. Most web browser traffic travels through port 80, for example, while port 22 is typically reserved for SSH traffic to servers.
One of the OpenVPN protocol’s greatest strengths is that it is not restricted and can be forwarded to any port on the TCP and UDP range. This method therefore bypasses censorship set up to block traffic traveling over specified ports. The most logical port to forward OpenVPN traffic to is 443.
Port 443 is primarily used for HTTPS traffic. HTTPS traffic is encrypted using the same algorithm as VPN traffic, SSL, so the two look pretty much identical from an outsider’s point of view. HTTPS is frequently used on websites that require extra privacy, such as online banking, log in pages, and making payments. It is doubtful that authorities would block this port because it is so necessary for users to safely browse the web.
Port forwarding usually takes place on a wifi router, although some VPN apps and operating systems support port forwarding. The exact process depends on your router firmware, suffice to say you’ll want to forward all OpenVPN traffic over port 443 to keep it hidden from authorities.
If one of the VPNs we listed isn’t working in Turkey, or you know of another one that does reliably operate, let us know in the comments.