Data Show Turkey’s Tweeters Beating Ban

Tweets in Turkish are down but not out, even as Turkey’s prime minister tries to block Twitter inside the country.

Here is a useful summary in MIT Technology Review, by Mike Orcutt:

New data suggest that the efforts of Turkey’s prime minister to “wipe out” Twitter have had only limited success.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared the ban after Turkish users of the site began to spread audio recordings that seem to implicate him in a corruption scandal. Figures for the number of tweets made in Turkish record a significant reduction in volume but also indicate that many Turkish Twitter users have successfully circumvented the restrictions. People have been sidestepping the ban by various means, including using virtual private network (VPN) services and the Tor anonymizing network.

Initially, the government ordered ISPs in the country to block Twitter and redirect traffic to a government Web page. But this was fairly simple to circumvent—for example, by sending tweets via SMS (something Twitter encouraged), or by configuring one’s network settings to point to a public DNS service outside of Turkey.

Over the weekend, however, Turkey’s government went one step further by blocking traffic to IP addresses assigned to Twitter.

The result was a further incremental reduction in Turkish-language tweets. In the past 24 hours, the share of all public tweets in Turkish was 1.58 percent—down from 2.04 percent yesterday, 2.36 percent on Saturday, and 2.98 percent one week ago, according to Paul Guyot, cofounder and analyst at Semiocast.

Turkish-language tweets are a better proxy than location data for Twitter use in Turkey, says Guyot, because Turkish is not widely spoken outside of Turkey, and because in the event of a ban, location data attached to tweets can be unreliable.

Methods used to get around a ban can lead to false location data being attached to tweets, and sometimes people outside a country switch their location as a show of protest or solidarity. When Twitter was banned in Iran during election protests several years ago, for example, many users around the world listed their location as Iran.

Figures from the Tor Project provide another view of the Turkish determination to keep using Twitter. Figures for the past few days show a large increase in the number of users connecting to the anonymity network from Turkey.

For an extensive look at the graphs, click here.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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