Can’t stop the tweets: Turkey tries and fails to block Twitter

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Americans use Twitter to chat about sports and TV shows. In Turkey, Twitter is an essential communications tool used to organize political protests. When the Turkish prime minister announced Thursday his plans to “eradicate Twitter” before the country’s elections, effectively cutting off access to the social network, all hell broke loose.

Turkish Twitter users flooded the network with messages. Turkey-related hashtags climbed to the worldwide trending list. #TwitterisblockedinTurkey, #OccupyTwitter, and #TurkeyBlockedTwitter are some of the more popular English hashtags.

So how are Turkish Twitter users still tweeting? They’re using some creative workarounds. Twitter has worked with some of the country’s phone carriers to allow users to tweet using SMS codes. The government could conceivably block that capability, but it hasn’t done so yet.

Turkish citizens are also using virtual private networks, proxies, the Tor anonymous network, and DNS setting tweaks to connect to Twitter. Graffiti artists are spray-painting DNS addresses on Turkish walls.

Even Turkey’s elected officials are still tweeting—President Abdullah Gul criticized Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision in a Friday tweet.

What's next for Twitter in Turkey?

Prime Minister Erdogan has targeted other social networks to ban in Turkey and seems nonplussed about international reaction to the country’s Internet censorship. Erdogan’s main beef with social media is a YouTube video that appears to implicate him in a corruption scandal. The video’s link was shared widely on Twitter and other social platforms.

Turkey recently passed a law that strengthens government censorship of the Internet, which would plug the DNS workarounds that Turkish citizens are using to access Twitter, but that infrastructure hasn’t been built yet.

It’s unclear whether Erdogan will back down from the Twitter ban, but if history offers any lessons, the wholesale block is unlikely to last long. Iran and Egypt both blocked Twitter during past periods of unrest, only to reverse the decisions.

Turkey’s communications minister reportedly said that the Twitter ban will be lifted when the network complies with the government’s requests to delete certain tweets or accounts, tweeted Benjamin Harvey, Bloomberg’s Turkey bureau chief.

Clearly the move isn’t working, regardless of why the government is trying to keep Twitter out.

“People in Turkey have banned the ban,” wrote UNC professor Zenep Tufekci, who researches social media and political movements, in a Medium post explaining the Turkish uprising.

Tufekci also pointed out that Turkey’s official news agency, in an ironic move, tweeted a link to its own story on the ban.

This story, "Can’t stop the tweets: Turkey tries and fails to block Twitter" was originally published by TechHive.

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