in Azerbaijan State Security Service blocks TikTok during the most recent clashes [Updated September 17]

20:58

Users of the social media platform TikTok in Azerbaijan started reporting difficulties accessing the application as early as September 13. On September 14, the State Security Service announced its decision to block access to the platform entirely on the grounds the platform was casting a shadow over the military activities, revealing military secrets, and forming wrong public opinion. 

According to testimonies of users in Azerbaijan, soldiers were sharing videos from the line of contact along the Azerbaijan-Armenia border. Some of these videos were graphic. Graphic videos also circulated on the Telegram app. OC Media reported about the first video while users said there was a second video resurfacing online.  

Other users said they experienced issues accessing WhatsApp, Telegram, and slow internet connectivity speeds. 

Azerbaijan Internet Watch together with partner organization OONI analyzed data provided by local testers on the ground and confirmed the blocking on the platform in Azerbaijan. The analysis revealed that TikTok was also blocked in Armenia. 

The blocking came at a time of renewed clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

According to the collected and analyzed OONI data,

the testing of www.tiktok.com and Tiktok endpoints presented a relatively large volume of anomalies between the 13th to 15th of September 2022, following the eruption of border clashes on the 12th of September 2022. It’s worth noting though that while www.tiktok.com measurements (showing signs of blocking) were collected from Azerbaijan from 13th September onwards, TikTok endpoint measurements are only available from 14th September 2022 onwards (when they were added to the test list for Azerbaijan). 

In summary, based on the analysis of 681 OONI metrics collected from 5 different networks in Azerbaijan, we conclude that:

  • The main TikTok website (www.tiktok.com) and several endpoints essential to its functionality were blocked on at least 3 different networks (AS29049AS41997AS31721);

  • On all networks where we identified blocking, it seems to be implemented by means of TLS level interference by dropping packets after noticing a disallowed server_name;

  • ISPs in Azerbaijan block TikTok based on different lists of TikTok endpoint domains, and there is some level of inconsistency.

Separately journalists from independent news platforms reported attempts to hack into their social media accounts during the most recent clashes due to their critical coverage. Verbal attacks were also documented as was the case two years ago. Both journalists and activists said their social media accounts were getting temporarily blocked by the platforms as a result of mass (fake) reporting. 

During the second Karabakh war, users in Azerbaijan faced internet restrictions as well. As a result, VPN usage soared during that period. In a statement issued by Access Now platform, Natalia Krapiva, Tech Legal Counsel at Access Now said, “Governments’ deep-seated drive to control the narrative — including in Central Asia and Eastern Europe — must stop.” “Whether authorities like it or not, people have the right to access the internet and to use social media, so focus on facilitating, not blocking.”

Latest news