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Tor, other software to get around Twitter ban popular in Turkey

TurkeyMedia IndustrySoftware IndustryTwitter, Inc.Recep Tayyip ErdoganNetworking

SAN FRANCISCO -- Turks are finding clever ways to defy the government and get around the ban on Twitter.

Workarounds such as DNS and VPN are now part of the lexicon and are being freely shared on social media and are even being painted on walls in Turkey's major cities.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged last week to “root out” Twitter ahead of municipal elections after audio tapes said to expose corrupt dealings by Erdogan and others were posted anonymously on the social network.

Erdogan used a court order to force Turkey’s telecommunications authority to ban the use of Twitter, triggering mass protests on Twitter and in the streets as well as sharp criticism from the U.S. government and European officials.

At first, people changed the Domain Name System or DNS on their computer to send traffic through servers not subject to the ban. When the government began blocking Twitter’s website, they started using VPN, or virtual private network, software, which gets around bans on Web addresses.

Downloads of VPN software Hotspot exceeded 1 million in 72 hours, according to a tweet from David Gorodyansky, chief executive of the Mountain View, Calif., company.

Use of Tor, anonymous Web browser software, has also increased. The Tor browser allows users to bypass the ban by rerouting Web traffic.

Tweeted one person who goes by @TheBlogPirate: “Good evening Turks! a Tor DNS server for your browsing needs 5.10.19.186 #TurkeyBlockedTwitter #Turkey #TwitterisblockedinTurkey.”

Turkish academic Zeynep Tufekci, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in the School of Information and Library Science, said this week that Erdogan is not so much trying to block Twitter as he is trying to “demonize social media.”

"It is a strategy of placing social media outside the sacred sphere, as a disruption of family, as a threat to unity, as an outside blade tearing at the fabric of society," she said.

Last week Twitter’s policy team said in a tweet: “We stand with our users in Turkey who rely on Twitter as a vital communications platform.”

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