Many of these allegations have arisen via leaked recordings shared on YouTube by anonymous users Başçalan and Haramzadeler. One of the recordings uploaded allegedly features Erdoğan and his son Bilal discussing where to hide hundreds of millions of euros in cash on Dec. 17, after the corruption probe went public.
Erdoğan announced on Thursday evening that he intends to block access to the popular websites Facebook and YouTube following the Mar. 30 local elections. While the prime minister’s comments caused quite a stir, this would not be the first banning of YouTube in Turkey.
The popular video-sharing website was blocked beginning in 2008 for over two years, a period in which Turkish Internet users turned to other methods to access the site, such as proxy servers and Tor, a software program that heavily conceals one’s digital identity by directing it through a densely layered, anonymous, volunteer-run network.
As of Thursday, many proxy sites and the Tor website itself have been blocked in Turkey, among numerous others, including the personal website of prominent journalist Mehmet Baransu and the popular music streaming site Grooveshark.
However, media experts speculate that the usage of bypassing techniques will continue to rise, especially if Erdoğan follows through with his latest plan.
Another method is being pursued by the Pirate Party of Turkey, the local branch of a loosely-affiliated global network of political parties that advocate freedom of information and oppose Internet censorship. The Pirate Party is working on developing the “Meshnet” in Turkey. Meshnet refers to a series of projects worldwide that seek to create decentralized networks outside the realm of Internet service providers, which are subject to government regulation.
“[Methods of bypassing censorship] will definitely continue to rise, especially if Facebook or Twitter are banned. There are 32 million Facebook users in Turkey, and 80-90 percent of them are active every day,” said Deniz Ergürel, a technology journalist and secretary general of the Turkish Media Association.
According to Ergürel, Turkish Internet users are very familiar with alternative access methods, which were used extensively during the period when YouTube was banned. The website was among the top 10 most accessed sites in Turkey in spite of the block, indicating that Turkish Internet users are savvy at skirting regulations.
“The Internet provides an alternative life for many people, so they will try alternate ways to access it,” said İsmail H. Polat, a lecturer at Kadir Has University’s Department of New Media in İstanbul.
Polat, who believes that simply blocking access to a site is a nearsighted and futile measure, pointed to the Streisand effect, a phenomenon named after the famous American singer and actor Barbara Streisand, whose efforts to stop the media’s circulation of photos of her home in Malibu, Calif. generated increased publicity.
“The government must increase new media literacy education. Prohibiting [access to a site] is not a way to make people stay away from illegal content. The way [to do this] is to strengthen media ethics, which are provided by increased media literacy,” Polat stresse