Twitter battle in Turkey heats up, spreads to YouTube -- reports

The fight over a Twitter ban in the country intensifies, as the government reportedly blocks a workaround, the White House weighs in, and Google refuses to yank YouTube videos critical of the prime minister.

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Turkey's battle over Net censorship is heating up, with the government there reportedly blocking a method that let citizens sidestep a Twitter ban, the White House expressing "serious concern" over the ban, and Google reportedly refusing requests from Turkish authorities to take down YouTube videos that cast the prime minister in a critical light.

Bloomberg cited Turkish newspapers in reporting that the Turkish government had blocked on Saturday a Google service that enabled citizens to tweet. Setting a PC or mobile device to use Google's DNS IP address of 8.8.8.8 had let people slip past the ban (and graffiti displaying the phrase "DNS 8.8.8.8" was even spotted around Turkey, helping spread the word). But on Saturday the government prevented access to Google DNS, Bloomberg said.

Yesterday, the White House issued a statement condemning Turkey's blockage of "access to basic communication tools." As reported by The Switch, Press Secretary Jay Carney delivered the remarks, saying, "We oppose this restriction on the Turkish people's access to information, which undermines their ability to exercise freedoms of expression and association and runs contrary to the principles of open governance that are critical to democratic governance." Carney said the White House had conveyed its concerns to the Turkish government.

Meanwhile, Google ignored requests from Turkish officials to remove YouTube videos that allege government corruption, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources. The videos include clips that feature a recording, allegedly of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which Erdogen seems to instruct his son to hide money from investigators. Erdogen has called the recording a fake.

"We support a free and open Internet throughout the world and are concerned whenever and wherever it comes under threat," Google told the Journal in a statement. One of the paper's sources said Google feels "an immediate threat" of a YouTube ban in Turkey.

On Thursday, Turkish courts took Twitter offline for the country's 76 million citizens following actions by Erdogan. An unabashed critic of social networks, Erdogan has threatened to "wipe out" the site in the wake of a political corruption scandal that has embarrassed the government through news, videos, and images posted on the microblogging site. Members of Erdogen's government face local elections March 30.

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Reuters reported Saturday that the Turkish government said Twitter was being used "to carry out systematic character assassinations by circulating illegally acquired recordings, fake and fabricated records of wiretapping." The news service quoted a statement from the prime minister's office that said, "It is difficult to comprehend Twitter's indifference and its biased and prejudiced stance. We believe that this attitude is damaging to the brand image of the company in question and creates an unfair and inaccurate impression of our country."

Reuters also quoted an unnamed senior official of the Turkish government as saying that talks with Twitter that began on Friday are continuing and that "the process is going positively."

"As far as we are concerned, when the court rulings are implemented the problems will be resolved and the block on Twitter will be lifted," the official told Reuters.

"We stand with our users in Turkey who rely on Twitter as a vital communications platform," Twitter said in a tweet on Friday. "We hope to have full access returned soon."

Reuters also said many people on Twitter were reporting that the purportedly blocked DNS settings were working by the early afternoon local time.

 

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