Turkish Government Closes Loophole That Was Letting Citizens Access Twitter Despite Ban


Thousands of Turks march to protest in 2011 against the Internet bans and filtering regulations.

Just over 24 hours after Turkish citizens discovered that their government was blocking them from using Twitter, the Turkish government on Saturday tightened their grip on citizens’ access to the social networking site even more, closing the loopholes that had allowed users to circumvent the ban.

To quash allegations of corruption in the days before local elections March 30, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had shut down Twitter on Thursday. Users trying to access Twitter directly received a message saying the site was blocked due to “protective measures.” The move quickly garnered criticisms from Turkish officials as well as the White House, which said the Twitter ban undermined democracy and universal rights such as free speech. Citizens, for their part, were quickly able to locate loopholes to get around the ban, Tweeting via SMS messaging or by changing their domain name system settings.

But that path of access was short-lived. Those who previously circumvented the ban by using Google DNS, a public domain, reported on Saturday that they were not able to access the Internet at all on public servers.

Affected Twitter users have spread the word on Twitter under the #GoogleDNSBlockedInTurkey hashtag, with suggestions on how to get around the new DNS block, such as using a virtual private network, or VPN. Twitter even posted instructions Friday on how Turkish users could get around the ban. Twitter has met with Turkish officials and expressed hope that access to the site will be restored soon.

Erdogan said banning Twitter was a direct response to the site being complicit in assassinating his character and not complying with court orders to remove unfavorable content. “Twitter has been used as a means to carry out systematic character assassinations by circulating illegally acquired recordings, fake and fabricated records of wiretapping,” according to a statement from Erdogan’s office.

The prime minister has also pressured other tech companies, such as Google, to remove content linking to YouTube audio recordings that suggest Erdogan’s involvement in a money laundering scheme with his son. Google has repeatedly refused, which could mean that YouTube might become the next site Turkey blocks. “Whether it’s Twitter, Yahoo or Google, all social media companies have to obey the laws of the Turkish Republic and they will,” Turkey’s communication minister, Lutfi Elvan, told the Associated Press.

White its reputation may be more positive than China’s on the issue, Turkey actually has a history of censorship. The prime minister has made threats against eradicating social media sites in the country before, calling Facebook and YouTube tools for espionage and spreading immorality. Last year, Turkey jailed dozens of journalists, more than any other country. Media censorship in the country has tightened greatly since passing a draconian law earlier this year that allows websites to be blocked without a court order.