Turkish users sneak past censorship of Facebook, Twitter

Both services have reportedly been blocked by the government, says the Guardian, forcing people to access them through VPN software.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read
Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Twitter page.
Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Twitter page. Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET

Many Turkish Internet users are staying connected to Facebook and Twitter despite reported government censorship of the two sites.

To get past the blockade of the two popular social networks, Turkish citizens have been using VPN software such as Hotspot Shield, which opens a tunnel through the Internet so the connection can't be detected. This past weekend, more than 120,000 people in Turkey downloaded the software, according to the Guardian, a huge leap from the 10,000 new users seen on an average day.

On Saturday, blog site TechCrunch said a number of sources told it that both Facebook and Twitter have been impossible to access from inside Instanbul and other areas of Turkey.

Protests against Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over restrictions on alcohol and other issues have triggered clashes with police, leading to injuries among many of the protesters and at least one death. Following reports that news organizations aren't fully covering the news, citizens in Turkey have been relying on social networks to send and receive information.

But Erdogan has actually blamed Twitter for fueling the protests, telling news site France 24 that "there is now a menace which is called Twitter. The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.''

The level of the censorship against Facebook and Twitter is a bit of a question, however.

On Saturday, Internet monitoring company Renesys said it found no evidence that Turkey's Internet access was being blocked. The company added that it could not rule out the possibility of slowdowns, but said that might be due to increased traffic.

"It may be the case that some local Internet users are experiencing delays on oversubscribed DSL lines or mobile Internet connections," Renesys said in its Saturday blog.