On Thursday 20 March 2014, the Turkish telecommunications regulator blocked access to Twitter. Users were redirected to a statement by theregulator, referring to court ordera to apply “protection measures” on the website (see the end of this post).
In a Press Release [pdf] the regulator said that, as a result of complaints from citizens about violations of personality and privacy rights the Courts had decided to block access. It said that the decision came after Twitter failed to implement court decisions requiring it to remove content from the site.
The blocking of access to Twitter came after the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told supporters earlier on Thursday
“We now have a court order. We will wipe out Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says at all. Everyone will see the power of the Turkish Republic”.
The order came after damaging allegations of corruption in Mr Erdogan’s inner circle were circulated on Twitter. A number of recordings emerged on Twitter which, it was claimed, showed him illegally meddling in political, legal, business, and media affairs. Links to what claim to be leaked recordings have been the subject of large numbers of tweets. On one recording, a voice resembling Mr Erdogan’s instructs his son to dispose of large amounts of cash from a residence amid a police graft investigation. Mr Erdogan corruption and says that the recording was fabricated.
The ban has been condemned around the world. European Commission Vice-President, Neelie Kroes tweeted
In the United States, White House issued a statement condemning Turkey’s blockage of “access to basic communication tools.” . Press Secretary Jay Carney said
“We oppose this restriction on the Turkish people’s access to information, which undermines their ability to exercise freedoms of expression and association and runs contrary to the principles of open governance that are critical to democratic governance”.
The hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey quickly moved among the top trending globally.
There appear to be four seperate court orders in place concerning the publication of defamatory material on Twitter. There are about 10 million Twitter users across Turkey who are affected by the ban. The Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) has filed a petition asking the country to overturn the Twitter ban, according to Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News.
It was, however, reported that Turkish users of Twitter, including the country’s president, have avoided a block on the social media platform by using text messaging services or disguising the location of their computers to continue posting messages on the site.
Twitter quickly informed Turkish users that they could still tweet using SMS. Google has also provided assistance through the use of its free DNS (Domain Name System). Setting a PC or mobile device to use Google’s DNS IP address of 126.96.36.199 is another to way to avoid the ban. Graffiti displaying the phrase “DNS 188.8.131.52” have sprayed on ruling party poster.
As of 22 March 2014, the Turkish government has blocked Google DNS and other DNS servers, which were being used by thousands to circumvent the ban on Twitter. The EFF has recommended that Turkish users download the Tor Browser Bundle to bypass censorship. It has now been reported that there is a block on Twitter’s IP addresses at the ISP level in Turkey so that users aren’t able to use any DNS services to circumvent the block.
The ban also appears to increased divisions within Erdogan’s party. President Abdullah Gul, who visited the headquarters of Twitter in 2012, said a ban on the site was “unacceptable” — and made his comments via his Twitter account.
However, the Turkish government said that Twitter had refused to remove offensive content despite Turkish court orders. It said that the network was engaged in “systematic character assassinations” for hosting accounts where leaked wiretapped recordings were posted. It said that the audio tapes were “illegally acquired” or “fake and fabricated”. The communications minister, Lutfi Elvan, said:
“Whether it’s Twitter, Yahoo or Google, all social media companies have to obey the laws of the Turkish Republic and they will.“
This image of the page showing the “Court orders” (with translations) was tweeted by freelance journalist @louisaloveluck: