In a major victory for freedom of expression, a government ban on the use of Twitter in Turkey has now been lifted.
The ban was removed on Thursday 3rd April 2014 after being in place for two weeks. The removal took place as a result of a ruling by the country’s constitutional court.
The blocking of Twitter was instigated after politically sensitive recordings were made available via the platform in the run up to the country’s local elections.
At the time of writing, moves are underway to apply the same ruling to the country’s ban on YouTube, with access to the video sharing site likely to also be restored in the coming days. In both cases, access to the sites could take some to become available while individual ISPs “unblock” them.
Citizens of Turkey didn’t take the ban well. Wired magazine reported that the ban “backfired,” with many citizens switching to VPN and proxy services to circumvent the embargo. In a typical display of human nature, the ban seemed to make people more determined to access social media.
In the Wired report, a spokesman from AnchorFree said that their daily install rate rose to 270,000 installs per day. While there’s nothing to indicate that all of these installs were in Turkey, the rate “spiked” shortly after the ban was put in place. There are also reports then knowledgeable computer users in Turkey are implementing Tor, a highly encrypted Internet anonymity platform.
Of course, not everyone is in a position to get around blanket bans on certain sites, such as those seen in Turkey. Some people lack the technical expertise or simply don’t know that VPN and proxy solutions are an option for them.
As the Wired article makes clear, there are 80 million people in Turkey, and less than half use the Internet. Only ten million of them use Twitter, and (at best) one million use a VPN service. So the news that the ban has been lifted is a very significant step forward. And while the ban was short-lived, technically astute citizens of Turkey now know that there’s a way around any similarly draconian steps that could be taken in the future.