Concern over Wikipedia connectivity issues in Turkey

Internet users in Turkey report that the Wikipedia online encyclopaedia is partly unreachable, or slowed to the point of being unusable, since 1 December 2016. Affected subdomains include the primary English edition and Turkish Vikipedi, as well as Wikimedia servers hosting image content for articles.

Packet captures
Packet captures highlight high retransmission rate and underlying packet loss to Wikimedia servers

Turkey Blocks analysts have confirmed the reports, identifying high rates of packet loss with multiple ISPs, including TTNet and UyduNet, afflicting a block of network addresses belonging to the Wikimedia Foundation, the organisation which governs and hosts infrastructure for Wikipedia. Affected IP address range includes the servers that host

Wikimedia IP assignment

The incident has not yet been conclusively identified as an attempt to censor content or restrict editorial access to the website. Speaking to Turkey Blocks, Wikimedia staff said they were not currently aware of technical issues at their end that might be affecting users in Turkey.

Censorship dilemma as Turkey loses ability to censor articles

Turkey has previously ordered the censorship several individual Wikipedia pages, including “naughty words” and political analysis, although new technical measures introduced by Wikipedia mid-2015, namely the implementation of secure https/TLS protocol for all visitors to the website, mean that the government is no longer able to block single encyclopaedia articles.

Turkey’s internet censors hence face a dilemma: they must either block the entirety of Wikipedia, or permit access to the full content including banned articles. Failure to comply with government blocking orders could incur severe penalties for internet provider workers – earlier this year, Turkey’s censorship bureau TIB was shuttered and its staff accused of connections to opposition groups.

Turkish Wikipedia censored articles
The government is no longer able to block individual articles following the switch to HTTPS

That said, no court order or administrative order currently exists to block access to Wikipedia in Turkey, nor are the IP addresses blocked using the technique one might normally expect would be used to restrict access to content.

Circumstances surrounding the 2015 content blocks and ongoing widespread connectivity problems throughout Turkey over recent days will likely fuel speculation that the Turkish government may have implemented bandwidth throttling, more frequently used to restrict social media services for short periods of time, in order to discourage access to Wikipedia until a more permanent solution can be found.