Turkey’s Prime Minister Tries to Ban Twitter, Gets Stuffed
On Twitter’s eighth birthday, Turkey’s prime minister decided to ban the service.
For weeks, apparently, some unflattering—and potentially incriminating—phone conversations about the government had been leaking over the platform. Instead of addressing the corruption scandal head-on, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan thought it would be appropriate to “wipe out Twitter” instead. And in a statement released just before midnight on Thursday, his office said it has little alternative but to block access to Twitter because the site had refused to obey Turkish court orders. Shortly after the announcement, the site went dark—at least momentarily.
Unfortunately for Erdogan—who in the past has also threatened to shut down YouTube and Facebook—banning Twitter is basically a “lesson in futility,” as the Electronic Frontier Foundation pointed out earlier today.
Since the ban went into effect yesterday, there have been some 2.5 million tweets from within the country, averaging around 17,000 tweets per minute—the most ever in the country on a single day.
As many people within Turkey have pointed out over social media, there are several workarounds to the Twitter ban. The first—and the most basic—is to simply tweet via SMS text. Twitter has yet to officially acknowledge the Turkish ban, but earlier today, Twitter’s Policy account instructed users in both Turkish and English how to use text to send out a tweet.
Turkish users: you can send Tweets using SMS. Avea and Vodafone text START to 2444. Turkcell text START to 2555.
— Policy (@policy) March 20, 2014
Another simple way users are accessing Twitter is by changing their server. Several websites have posted instructions for this foolproof method.
Other have taken a more on-the-ground approach:
— Utku Can (@utku) March 21, 2014
People are also using VPN clients, Tor, and Chrome plug-ins like ZenMate and HideMyAss, which mask a person’s IP address. Google Chrome plug-ins have become especially popular in Turkey; all it requires is a quick download.
“We have seen 25,000 visitors from Turkey to the Chrome store in the last 12 hours,” ZenMate co-founder told TechWorld this morning. “We saw similar results following recent Internet restrictions in Ukraine and Venezuela.”
Not surprisingly, Erdogan has drawn plenty of criticism for the ban—even from some well-known political leaders like the EU’s Commissioner for Competition.
The Twitter ban in #Turkey is groundless, pointless, cowardly. Turkish people and intl community will see this as censorship. It is.
— Neelie Kroes (@NeelieKroesEU) March 20, 2014