Turkey Steps Up Twitter Ban

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Users in Turkey have largely circumvented the government ban, introduced last week.

Turkey isn't giving up on its war against Twitter.

After introducing a ban on the social media platform last week -- and seeing Twitter use in Turkey actually increase as users employed technical back doors to easily circumvent it -- Turkey's conservative government has gone further and is blocking those back doors as well.

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While the Turkish government initially banned users from accessing Twitter's homepage, now local Internet service providers have been forced to block Turkish IP addresses from using the service.

When the conservative government of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan first banned Twitter March 21, users quickly switched to using Domain Name System (DNS) servers, such as Google's public DNS service, to circumvent the block. Some citizens spray-painted Google DNS addresses on election posters from Erdogan's ruling party. 

Now, however, according to reports and users inside the country, that route has been shut down. Users can still work around the ban, using a more complicated virtual private network (VPN) service to make it appear as if they are accessing Twitter from outside the country.

Erdogan's Twitter ban has become a major issue in Turkey's upcoming municipal elections, set for March 30. The dispute began when audio recordings, allegedly of Erdogan discussing bribes and corruption, began to circulate on Twitter and other social media sites. Those recordings, which Erdogan claims are fake, have discredited the prime minister and his conservative party. Twitter was also used by those opposed to Erdogan's rule to support last summer's protests in Gezi Park in Istanbul.

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Turkish president Abdullah Gul, a former ally of Erdogan who has become a political rival, has derided the Twitter ban, flouting it himself to tweet that “the shutdown of an entire social platform is unacceptable” and, in any case “technically impossible.”

The ban has been widely condemned outside of Turkey. But it remains to be seen how it will impact Turkey's elections. Only 15 percent of Turkish citizens are Twitter users, according to research from Emarketer. The figure among Erdogan's political base of religious and conservative Turks -- many of them outside the country's major urban centers -- is likely much lower.