On March 21, people in Turkey woke up to a complete ban on Twitter. The country’s increasingly authoritarian Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan had made good on the previous day’s campaign promise, clamping down on one of the three social media platforms that have been plaguing him since last summer’s Gezi Park protests. (Facebook and YouTube remain online for the moment.)
The legal justification for the ban is still murky, as various prosecutors have denied their own jurisdiction on the matter and at least one court appeal has been rejected on the basis that the ban was ultimately an executive decision rather than a judicial one. Twitter’s lawyer in Turkey spent March 21 in negotiations with the Telecommunications Authority.
The past month has seen increasingly outrageous leaks of phone taps revealing alleged corruption on the part of the PM and members of his party, usually spreading through a combination of Twitter and YouTube. With just over a week until municipal elections, rumors have been high that sex tapes are next, and pro-government media recently started running preemptive stories on how silicone masks could be use to fake identities on video.
If such leaks do emerge Turks are likely to see them, as they quickly found and shared a variety of workarounds to surmount the ban. The hashtags TwitterisblockedinTurkey and Turkeyblockedtwitter quickly became trending topics worldwide, and the country’s president Abdullah Gul, voice his own objection to the ban via Twitter.