Graffiti in Istanbul featuring Google's Public DNS numbers, one of the ways Turkish Internet users can get around the Twitter ban. Photo published on Twitter by Kaan Sezyum.
Turkey may have blocked the use of Twitter, but that hasn’t stopped many Turks from continuing to tweet. Technologically-savvy youth are quickly getting their fellow citizens up to speed on how to bypass the ban by posting instructions online as well as on city walls.
According to several of our Observers in Istanbul, graffiti like the example below have popped up in dozens of places around the city since Twitter was blocked on Thursday. The ban came hours after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to “root out” Twitter. The social network had in recent weeks been used to share recordings which allegedly featured him telling his son to hide large sums of money in anticipation of a police raid.
The numbers scrawled on Erdogan's face refer to Google’s Public DNS, which offers two IP addresses that anyone can use, enabling them to get around the Twitter ban (instructions can be found here). Another popular technique is using virtual private networks, or VPNs, which disguise users’ IP addresses so that it looks like they are in a different country. VPNs are commonly used in many countries where the Internet is censored, like Iran and China.
“Ordinary citizens are suddenly learning to use this technology”
Serhatcan Yurdam is a blogger who lives in Istanbul.
I changed my DNS a long time ago, in order to access certain sites that had already been blocked, such as the Kurdish news agency firatnews.com, blocked in 2011. Many tech-savvy Internet users in Turkey had already done this when YouTube was blocked [which has happened on multiple occasions since 2007]. But now that they’ve gone after Twitter, it seems that masses of ordinary citizens are learning how to use this technology. Everybody is teaching each other how to change their DNS, how to use VPNs… and clearly they’re catching on quickly, since so many people are still tweeting! [Editor's Note: Even the country's president - who has less power than the prime minister - tweeted on Friday, criticising the ban.]With my changed DNS, I have no problem accessing Twitter on my computer. However, when the ban started, I noticed that I couldn’t access Twitter on my iPhone. I downloaded a VPN app, and now it works just fine. [Editor’s Note: There are many different VPNs applications available online; some are free while others are not.]I believe that the authorities will never be able to stop people from using Twitter. We’ll always find alternative ways to access it. And even if people weren’t able to access it, they would try to gather on other similar social networks. Twitter is vitally important for me and millions of Turkish citizens, because Turkish media is under a lot of pressure from the authorities. And social media is now effectively used as medium for sharing news here. In many ways, Turkish people see Twitter as their digital public space.