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Friday, March 21, 2014

Turks Evade Twitter Ban to Mock Twitter Ban, on Twitter

As my colleagues Sebnem Arsu and Alan Cowell report, Turkey’s court-ordered ban on Twitter was widely subverted on Friday by many of the 12 million Turkish users of the social network, who found ways to gain access to the platform and posted defiant messages of protest.

Many of the messages posted on Friday celebrated creative means of sharing information offline about how Turks can alter Domain Name System settings on their devices to allow them to evade the ban; others mocked Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan â€" who told supporters he would “eradicate” the social network he has blamed for spreading what he calls false information about government corruption.

Elif Batuman, a Turkish-American writer, explained that bloggers mocking the ban quickly seized on a contemptuous comment by the prime minister, who scoffed at what he called in Turkish “Twitter, mwitter!” which might be roughly translated into English as “Twitter, schmitter!”

As the journalist and blogger Emre Kizilkaya reported, evasive measures were also suggested by Twitter’s global public policy unit almost as soon as the ban was imposed late Thursday.

Just as they did during the period when YouTube was blocked in Turkey, even some senior officials openly continued using Twitter despite the official prohibition. The most prominent message of dissent came from the country’s president, Abdullah Gul, who recently signed legislation that made it easier for the state Internet regulator to block websites but tweeted Friday morning that the blocking of “Sosyal medya” platforms was unacceptable.

The president was not the only senior official to continue tweeting despite the ban.

At Istanbul’s Buster Internet café, a student named Engin Alturk told my colleague Ceylan Yeginsu that the prohibition had only encouraged people to tweet more. “The ban has had the opposite effect, millions of people are tweeting mocking the government as Erdogan gives his usual rant on television,” he said. “We lived without YouTube for a year, we know all the tricks to get around this,” he added. “Erdogan must think us stupid.”

Writing on Medium, the Turkish sociologist Zeynep Tufekci observed that the ban “has backfired.”

The only people not on Twitter at the moment,” Ms. Tufekci wrote, “are ardent pro-government supporters who do not want to circumvent, and people who may not have the fairly minimal skill required to circumvent. I suspect the latter camp will dwindle.” Turks, she added, “are getting even more practiced and determined in circumvention.”

As a friend said, her 60-year-old mother, practiced from the days of the YouTube ban, was able to get right back on after being told “do what you did for YouTube few years ago.” Anyone too young to have figured things out through previous practice is doing so now.

Reporting was contributed by Ceylan Yeginsu in Istanbul.

Follow Robert Mackey on Twitter @robertmackey.