Amid anti-government protests, the Turkish government attempted to block Twitter last week. This move proved ill-fated: Users found multiple workarounds aided by advice directly from Twitter’s corporate accounts. As the block persists, users are becoming much more savvy, and each new attempt to ban is quickly circumvented.
In June of last year, Turkish police arrested 25 people accused of “spreading untrue information” on Twitter and other social networks. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Twitter a “menace to society” at the time, and if the other Arab spring protests are an indication – hell hath no fury like a social network scorned.
On March 20th this year, PM Erdogan vowed to close down Twitter: “We’ll eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says.” Twitter was blocked by midnight that night. In light of the block, Twitter’s official @policy account advised Turkish users that they could still tweet via SMS. And the hits kept coming for the anti-Twitter government.
Since the ban, users have been flooding to Tor: a free anonymous web browser. The browser uses what’s called onion routing, which drives encrypted data through a number of routing points. This onion routing protects the information by scrambling its origin. Five days following the ban, 55,000 people have used the browser in Turkey — more than double the amount before the ban.
Twitter offered support to Turkish users and stated that it hoped “to have full access returned soon.” Even The White House released a statement saying, “We oppose this restriction on the Turkish people’s access to information, which undermines their ability to exercise freedoms of expression and association ”
The Turkish Journalists Association also filed legal complaints against the ban, and two Internet lawyers have filed a case with Turkey’s constitutional court. So far they’ve been successful: a court in Ankara, Turkey has issued a temporary injunction against the ban, demanding service be restored. TiB, Turkey’s telecommunications authority has 30 days to comply, but even if Twitter is still down when the election comes around, I doubt social media users will forget what this ban meant for them.
Our sister site AllTwitter has more on the social network’s legal action against Turkey.
Update: A court has overturned the government’s ban on Twitter. However, authorities still have a chance to appeal the ruling.