On Thursday, March 20, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, announced his plans to “eradicate” Twitter from his country, and instituted a nationwide ban on the social networking site. Internet censorship in the country has steadily grown in the ensuing weeks in an attempt to stifle its use for coordinating protests.
Over the past year, Turkey has been seized by upheaval from its citizens. Now that the country is approaching election season, Erdoğan has decided that something must be done about his citizens. As Twitter had been used for organizing demonstrations and exhibiting political unrest in places such as Egypt during the “Arab Spring,” it’s easy to see why the government targeted this site in particular.
However, the ban was somewhat less than effective. Turkish citizens soon found ways around the Twitter ban by changing their Domain Name System (DNS) settings, causing the site to believe that they were outside of Turkey. Instructions on how to do this soon spread throughout Facebook, Snapchat, and even city graffiti.
On March 26, the Turkish Court ruled against the ban, and ordered that it be lifted. Erdoğan has expressed dissatisfaction and resistance to this ruling, and under Turkish law, the government has thirty days to either comply or file an appeal. Erdoğan fired allegations that YouTube may have influenced the court’s decision, as Twitter hired lawyers from the same law firm YouTube used when it challenged a similar ban a few years ago.
On March 27, the Turkish government instituted yet another ban on YouTube. According to the Turkish government, this ban is a response to a recording of a leaked conversation between high-ranking Turkish officials regarding a possible war with neighboring Syria. Turkish media outlets have also been barred from playing the leaked conversation.
Due to the influence the Turkish government has on its media, many citizens distrust major news organizations, and rely heavily on the Internet and new media. Commentators, such as Zeynep Tufekci of the University of North Carolina, have expressed fear that this censorship may set a dangerous precedent in the country, even if efforts to ban these sites have proved ineffectual in the face of Turkey’s tech-savvy citizens.
While Erdoğan possesses strong support in rural areas, he is much less popular in Turkey’s urban centers. Istanbul in particular is a major political battleground. These bans may have a major impact on the country’s elections.
By the time this article is published, the Turkish elections will have already taken place, and the world will have seen how the Turkish people have reacted.
By Seann Barbour