How Do You Make Twitter More Popular? Try to Ban It

Turkish citizens are having little trouble getting around the country's Twitter ban.

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Mar 21 2014, 2:20pm
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Image: Shutterstock/360b

From last night, Twitter users in Turkey found themselves unable to access the social media site following a block instigated by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It was a not-unexpected culmination of Erdoğan’s increasingly tight internet restrictions and well-publicised dislike of Twitter and other social media sites, especially when they’re used to spread allegations of corruption in his government.

But while Turkish Twitter users may have been temporarily startled by the sudden lock-out, it didn’t take long for them to find workarounds and keep tweeting. The Guardian reports that 2.5 million tweets have been posted from Turkey since the ban has been in place—which is apparently a new record for the country.

After all, if there’s one thing you can do to make something more attractive to people, it’s to tell them they’re not allowed to do it. In the ultimate backfire for Erdoğan, Turkish Twitter users have been tweeting about the Twitter ban, both showing off how ineffective it is and making the world sit up and take notice of Turkey’s declining internet freedom through the invaluable tool of trending hashtags. 

Even Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gül, breached the block to express his disapproval of the policy. He’s spoken out against the idea of restricting social media sites before, clashing on the issue with Erdoğan, but it’s a pretty bold act of defiance that will likely only encourage others to follow his lead and cement Twitter’s reputation as a potential tool of protest. 

Turkish tweeters are circumventing the block by sending tweets by SMS, using VPNs, and changing their DNS codes so it looks like they’re not in the country. Twitter’s policy handle even gave a helping hand to those looking for an easy workaround—by tweet of course.

Other politicians have spoken out about the block. EU Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes has tweeted several times against the ban, while  the EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Füle, issued an official statement

“Freedom of expression, a fundamental right in any democratic society, includes the right to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority,” he said. “Citizens must be free to communicate and choose freely the means to do it. This obviously includes access to the internet.”

Reuters reports that the opposition party is planning to file a legal complaint against the block, which was enabled by a court decision, along with a criminal complaint against Erdoğan. 

In attempting to quell dissent, it seems Erdoğan has, predictably, only fuelled the fire.