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Turkish citizens use Google to fight Twitter ban

direntwitter.0.jpg

Turkish citizens have found a way to circumvent yesterday's reported block of Twitter: Google DNS.

After being implicated in a corruption scandal through recordings leaked via YouTube and other media sharing sites, Turkey's prime minister, Recep Erdoğan, has gone to great lengths to stem their spread online. Erdoğan vehemently denies the authenticity of the recordings, which purportedly reveal him telling his son to dispose of large sums of cash, and has alleged they are the work of Turkish cleric and political rival Fethullah Gulen. In the lead-up to local elections on March 30th, Erdoğan has stepped up his attempts to stop the recordings being spread with a nationwide ban of Twitter. However, it appears that, rather than the more complex system used to bar access to sites by countries like China, Turkey's Twitter ban was made possible by a simple DNS block, and citizens haven't taken long to circumvent it.

Turkey's Twitter ban appears to be a simple DNS block

Everyone browsing the web uses DNS. It's a system that routes the domain name you type into your browser to the IP address of that site. Google provides a free DNS service that's open to all, and with knowledge of this some Turkish citizens have begun to spread the word that using Google DNS will avoid the Twitter ban. Graffiti has shown up bearing the Google DNS "8.8.8.8," and Twitter users have shared images showing the address with the hashtag #DirenTwitter. In addition, Oğuz Özgül, a supervisor at a web agency in Turkey, tells The Verge that "major media channels" have parroted the workaround, and many Facebook users have posted how-tos helping others to set up an alternative DNS.

An image shared multiple times that purports to show graffiti of Google's DNS on the side of a building, alongside the slogan "let your bird sing."

"Reversing on liberties is out of the question in Turkey."

Although Twitter has been prohibited, other services like YouTube and Facebook remain unblocked. In a statement given to Reuters, a Turkish official said that the Twitter ban was made possible through an earlier court decision, and clarifies that "at the moment there is no such decision for other social media like Facebook." The statement implies that wider social media control isn't imminent, but leaves the door open for Erdoğan to pursue further bans. Should he seek wider restrictions, Erdoğan faces pressure from the nation's president Abdullah Gül, who has publicly spoken against blocking social media sites. "Things like YouTube and Facebook are accepted all around the world, and their closure cannot be of discussion," Gül said earlier this month. "Reversing on liberties is out of the question in Turkey. We always feel proud of reforms that enhance freedoms; they will always proceed further."

Despite the Twitter ban, Gül took to the site this morning to condemn the block, calling it "unacceptable." In a series of tweets, the president says that it's both technically impossible and unlawful to fully block an entire social media network. He explains that specific pages that are breaking the law can be blocked by courts, and adds that he hopes the current situation will not continue much longer. For the time being, Twitter is officially advising users in Turkey to send tweets via SMS.

Update: The circumvention methods appear to be working very well for Turkish Twitter users: activity in the country is up 138 percent, according to tracking firm Brandwatch, as The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Verge
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