Reporters Without Borders

Blocking of Twitter – “worthy of the most repressive regimes”

Blocking of Twitter – “worthy of the most repressive regimes”

Published on Friday 21 March 2014.
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Reporters Without Borders condemns Turkey’s blocking of Twitter, which began at around midnight last night, just nine days ahead of regional elections and after several weeks in which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s standing has been damaged by the leaking of a series of embarrassing audio recordings online.

The alleged recordings of Erdogan’s conversations, many of which have been posted on Twitter, point to involvement in alleged corruption as well as his personal meddling in the editorial policies of leading media such as HaberTürk, Milliyet, NTV and Star.

“This extreme and absurd act of censorship, fraught with consequences for the flow of information and democratic debate, is worthy of the world’s most repressive regimes,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

“The damage to freedom of information is out of all proportion to the official aim. This decision unfortunately just illustrates the draconian nature of the legislation adopted a few weeks ago to reinforce online censorship. We urge the government to stop blocking Twitter and to amend its legislation in order to comply with the constitution and Turkey’s international undertakings.”

The Turkish authorities have blocked Twitter under legislation that was adopted last month in defiance of a national and international outcry.

The Information Technologies and Communications Council (BTK), an offshoot of the transport and communications ministry, yesterday said the “preventive suspension” of access to the entire Twitter platform had been ordered in response to complaints that certain content was “violating privacy” and “attacking persons.”

Access to Twitter would be restored as soon as it “withdrew the content that the courts had identified as illegal,” the BTK added.

Several court decisions were cited, including decisions issued by an Istanbul criminal court on 3 February, a magistrates court in the northern city of Samsun on 4 March, an Istanbul magistrates court on 18 March and the High Council for Telecommunications (TIB) on 20 March.

The imminent blocking of Twitter was announced by Prime Minister Erdogan at an election rally in the northwestern city of Bursa yesterday. “The courts have just taken a decision,” he said. “We are going to eradicate Twitter and its like. Yes, all of them. What will international circles say? That doesn’t concern me. They will see the power of the Turkish Republic.”

Erdogan criticized those “who do not hesitate to spy on the most senior government officials” and who “now threaten the security of the state.”

He added: “This has nothing to do with freedoms. Freedom does mean violating a person’s privacy. And sending state secrets to international addresses is not freedom either.”

Erdogan’s comments elicited an immediate protest from the Association of Internet Publishers (IYAD), which said: “Claiming the right to close Twitter would confirm [that Turkey is] a dictatorship.”

After the blocking of Twitter began, the head of the national bar association, Metin Feyzioglu, announced that he intended file a legal action against those responsible. The United States and European Union have also voiced their concern.

Four ways to get round Twitter blocking

1. Mobile phone

Twitter offers you possibility of posting a tweet via your mobile phone’s SMS application. In Turkey, Avea and Vodafone subscribers should text “START” to 2444. Turcell subscribers should text “Start” to 2555. And then follow instructions.

2. DNS servers

The Turkish authorities have blocked Twitter by tweaking its DNS servers, which are directories that match domain name web addresses to their IP numerical equivalents. Twitter has been blocked by deleting its domain name from Turkey’s DNS servers. To get round this kind of censorship, you just have to use alternatives to the DNS servers provided by local ISPs. That’s why the addresses of the Google (8.8.8.8) and openDNS servers (8.8.4.4) are displayed in all sorts of places in Turkey, including walls, social networks, infographics and tags.
To change the DNS server settings on your computer, follow this tutorial.
This video explains how to change an iPhone’s DNS settings.

3. Tor

Using the Tor network frees you from all of Turkey’s online censorship. Tor diverts all your Internet traffic through servers located abroad, which are not subject to the filtering in place in Turkey.
Read this tutorial in order to install Tor and understand how it works (in Turkish here).

4. The Reporters Without Borders VPN

Using a Virtual Private Network allows you to connect to the Internet as if you were in another country. The Reporters Without Borders VPN lets you connect to the Internet as if you were in France instead of Turkey, so that Turkey’s filtering and blocking will no longer affect your browsing. Once you have installed and configured RWB’s VPN, contact us at wefightcensorship@rsf.org to obtain a username and password.

(Photo : AFP Photo / Prime Minister Press Office / Kayhan Ozer)

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