Turkish court blocks access to Twitter [updated]

twitter-banThe Telecommunications authority in charge of regulating the internet in Turkey has issued a ban on user access to Twitter, in compliance with a ‘court order’. The decision came less than 24 hours after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to ban social networks, which he often describes as a ‘menace to society’, claiming ”we will root them (social networks) all out”.

Twitter users who tried to log on in last hour see the above sentence issued by the TİB (Directorate of Telecommunications and Communication), saying that ”The PROTECTION MEASURE has been taken for this website (twitter.com) according to Decision No: 2014/182 dated 18/03/2014 of Istanbul Anatolian 5th Penal Court of Peace has been implemented by Telecommunications Authority’‘.

Twitter has been the major platform for critics of the ruling AKP government and protestors who have used the micro-blogging site to organize and communicate throughout mass demonstrations, which have been continuing since last June. Recently, audio recordings of high-level government officials, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were leaked on the internet and caused significant resentment among the public. They included phone conversations about alleged allocations of public lands to construction companies, as well as discussions on the huge amounts of cash found during recent police raids on the homes of the sons of some ministers.

Internet access in Turkey has already been restricted for over 10 years, with thousands of websites blocked, most with arbitrary provisional injunctions by the TIB. The Prime Minister called Twitter a ‘scourge’ and on several occasions labelled social media as ‘the worst menace to society’.

Parties in Turkey have been running intense campaigns for the last couple of weeks for the local elections to be held next week. How the Twitter ban may change the fate of the elections remains to be seen.

We will be updating the story as it develops…

UPDATE: Twitter users in Turkey have flooded the platform sharing ways to bypass the ban. One of them is changing the DNS settings. Twitter’s global public policy team have weighed in, tweeting as follows from its @policy account:

policytwitter

UPDATE 2: (9:45AM-GMT) Turkish President Abdullah Gül released his view on Twitter ban via Twitter itself, bypassing the government’s blocking. He tweeted “Overall blocking of social media platforms is unacceptable. Besides, as I have repeatedly noted before, it is also technically impossible to impose an overall ban on global social media platforms like Twitter in today’s highly developed digital world. If legal issues arise, like the violation of privacy, then the solution is to sanction via court order only the related pages subject to the violation. I hope this latest implementation (ban) will not last long.”

Below is the original Turkish text of President’s comments:

“Sosyal medya platformlarının tamamen kapatılması tasvip edilemez. Ayrıca, daha önce defalarca belirttiğim gibi iletişim teknolojilerinin bugün ulaştığı noktada Twitter gibi bütün dünyada kullanılan platformlara erişimin topyekün engellenmesi teknik olarak zaten mümkün degil. Kişilerin özel hayatının gizliliğini ihlal gibi suç oluşturan hususlar varsa, ancak mahkeme kararıyla sadece ilgili sayfalar kapatılabilir. Umarım bu uygulama uzun sürmez.”



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