Just as VPN Creative went to press the other day with a story on how suppressive and undemocratic regimes aspires to control and limit access to information and social media, reports of a new ban on Twitter in Turkey broke out.
Turkey has a long history of banning social media like Twitter and YouTube. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has been criticized for unlawfully blocking social media. Erdoğan himself refers to Twitter as the worst menace to society.
Now we have a menace that is called Twitter. The best example of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society. –Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (NYTimes)
The reason for the latest crackdown on Twitter is allegedly an effort to limit distribution of images showing Turkish nationalists using violence against Kurdish citizens. This follows a suicide bombing in July which lead to a breakdown of ceasefire between Turkish forces and Kurdish rebels. Over the recent weeks Turkey has become increasingly more violent.
Attacks by both sides have become regular occurrences, and that has lead many Turkish nationalists to go after Kurds. Images of these attacks have been spreading across social media, drawing global sympathy for Kurds.
Regardless of the reason, shutting off social media is by no means acceptable in a modern democracy. It seems every time there is unrest in the country, uproar against the government in general or protests against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in particular, Turkey turns off access to social media. It has happened so regularly, it calls for a timeline:
Timeline of recent social media censorship in Turkey
20 March 2014: Access to Twitter was blocked following a court order based on “protection measures” to be applied on the service. This followed previous statements by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan who declared intentions to “wipe out Twitter” following allegations of corruption in his inner circle.
27 March 2014: Access to YouTube was blocked after leaked footage from a National Security meeting conversation seemingly revealed Head of Turkish Intelligence Hakan Fidan, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, and others, plotting “false flag” operations in Syria. Erdoğan described the leak as “villainous”; Davutoğlu called it “a cyber attack against the Turkish Republic” and “a declaration of war against the Turkish state and our nation”. YouTube was unblocked on June 3, 2014 after a court ruling.
November 2014: Turkish Wikipedia entries for Vagina, Human penis, Scrotum and Vulva were found to be censored out by main Internet service provider TTNET.
6 April 2015: Turkey blocked access to Twitter, YouTube and Facebook after images of a prosecutor held hostage by far-left DHKP-C militants with a gun held at his head were posted. The prosecutor was later killed in the crisis. Facebook quickly complied with the court’s decision and removed the content, resulting in the removal of the block for the website.
9 September 2015: As mentioned above, Turkey blocks Twitter in Kurdish Areas in attempt to avoid violent pictures reach Kurds.
— Têkoşîn (@Mexlumy) September 8, 2015
Transparency Report showed that Turkey filed over five times more content removal requests to Twitter than any other country in the second half of 2014.
Evidently, Turkey blocks social media every time they want to control information. Sometimes it’s to hide information for citizens or minorities in attempt to obtain stability in the country during uproar, but in other situations it’s to protect the government during serious allegations, such as corruption scandals. Turkey are prosecuting bloggers and journalist and has on many occasions called foreign reporters spies or agents plotting agains Turkey.
Erdogan remains Turkey’s dominant political figure and Twitter, which is recovering from a slow initial growth, takes a tough road to support free speech in a country which has more than 10 million users while 39 million log on to Facebook in Turkey daily.
Regardless of the reason, no government in any democracy should under any circumstances restrict it’s citizens from information and communication through social media or by any other means.
How to access Twitter in Turkey during blockages
Luckily, under most circumstances, citizens can circumvent online censorship using technology like Virtual Private Network (VPN).
A VPN effectively redirects your Internet traffic through an encrypted server which not only provides online anonymity but also makes it possible to access otherwise blocked websites in a specific country.
Here’s a few tips on choosing the best VPN provider:
Choose a provider that offers free trial and or money back guarantee. The reason to this is because it is important to see if you have selected a working VPN provider for Turkey.
Once you’ve chosen a VPN provider, we suggest you purchase monthly plans. Do not buy a longer subscription because the Turkish government may shut off access to a particular VPN which thus will stop working.
Some VPN providers offer even more advanced encryption and redirection technology, like VyprVPN‘s proprietary VPN technology called Chameleon.
Chameleon scrambles OpenVPN packet metadata to ensure it’s not recognizable via deep packet inspection (DPI), while still keeping it fast and lightweight. The Chameleon technology uses the unmodified OpenVPN 256-bit protocol for the underlying data encryption. The result is that VyprVPN users are able to bypass restrictive networks put in place by governments, corporations and ISPs to achieve an open internet experience without sacrificing the proven security for which OpenVPN has long been known.
Choose a provider with excellent customer support who can help you if you face challenges setting up a VPN connection in a heavily guarded country like Turkey.
Have you experienced censorship in Turkey and how did you circumvent it? Share your story with us in the comment section below.