Saturday, 22 March 2014

President Gül breaks Turkey’s Twitter ban as government extends internet censorship

President Abdullah Gül was among hundreds of thousands to flout the Twitter ban in Turkey 

The President of Turkey made a series of tweets that a blanket ban on social media platforms was “unacceptable” hours after a nation-wide ban on Twitter came into force. Abdullah Gül was one of many of Turkey’s 10 million Twitter users to flout the ban to voice their opposition to the Turkish government’s latest efforts to censor the internet.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan followed through on threats he had made a few days earlier by blocking Turkey’s access to Twitter on Thursday night. Within an hour of the government decree, news was circulated on Twitter and other social media on how Turkish users could circumvent the block. The following morning, President Gül was one of hundreds of thousands in Turkey who had by-passed the ban.

In a series of five tweets on 21 March, the President said: “It is not acceptable for social media platforms to be totally blocked. In addition, as I have made clear many times before, the advances in communication technology means today it has reached a position where technically it is impossible to block access to all users. If crimes involving the invasion of people’s personal privacy have been committed, then only those pages should be closed by a court decree. I trust this ban will not last long.”

Erdoğan, who has been in power for 11 years, is battling a major corruption scandal that has been amplified through viral social media posts, which carry alleged evidence of government wrongdoing. He has been criticised for not addressing the allegations, instead simply labelling the corruption claims as “fabrications” created by his opponents who want to bring down his government.

Ironically, it was President Gül who recently signed into law new powers for the Turkish government to impose stricter control over the internet. With various national newspapers such as Radikal joining Twitter and individuals in circulating details of how to bypass the Twitter ban, Hurriyet Daily News reported earlier today that the Turkish government has since extended its restrictions by also blocking access to Google’s DNS service.

No statement has been made by the Turkish authorities about this latest move, prompting speculation it was made as a result of an executive and not judicial decision. Other access points to Twitter, such as Open DNS and VPN, are currently functioning normally, although there are concerns the government may seek to block these too in the run-up to local elections on 30 March.

Turks becoming internet experts as get to grips with DNS, proxy, and VPN to overcome internet censorship 

Turkey previously blocked access to Youtube for a period of two years after the site refused to remove offensive videos about Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. However, the Turkish public found ways to circumvent government restrictions and Youtube remained in the top 5 of most visited websites in Turkey throughout the ban.

Many believe the Turkish government’s efforts to censor the internet is aiding the Turkish public’s proficiency on the internet. One user posted on Facebook: “DNS, proxy, VPN have become part of our daily lives. In the not too distant future, my people will become [internet] network experts.”

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