Blanket type censorship results in massive collateral damage!
The dictatorship in Turkmenistan does not get a lot of media and scholarly attention, although it is more than worthy of it. In the 2023 Freedom in the World Index, the country ranked in the bottom three, behind only war-torn Syria and ahead of North Korea. The issue of internet censorship is particularly acute in Turkmenistan. In 2016, the media freedom organization Reporters without Borders listed the country as one of the enemies of the internet due to its heavy censorship and information control policies. The internet speed in Turkmenistan is the slowest in the world. The authorities arrest citizens who use VPN apps to access censored content.
Between 2021 and 2022, a team of computer scientists conducted the first and only large-scale research on internet censorship in Turkmenistan, in which they tested 15.5 million domains for censorship and found out that over 122,000 domains are blocked. Full research results are available here. Global Voices spoke to Nguyen Phong from the research team to learn about what content is censored, how it is done, and what methods can be employed to circumvent censorship. Currently, Phong is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago. The interview has been edited for clarity.