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Twitter successfully gets Turkish ban lifted with legal petition

A judge in Ankara has ruled that the government in Turkey has no right to restrict access to the social network, as it violates the freedom of access to communication.

Protesters in Ankara marching against the Turkish government's Twitter ban on 22 March. (Photo: Getty)
Protesters in Ankara marching against the Turkish government's Twitter ban on 22 March. (Photo: Getty)

The Turkish government's decision to ban Twitter six days ago caused international outrage, with commentators likening the country to dictatorships like North Korea. That ban has now been stayed, thanks to a Turkish judge in Ankara ruling that the government had violated the public's right to information and communication. 

While the government has the right to appeal, ISPs in Turkey have been ordered to rescind the ban until further notice. The judgement came from a lawsuit filed by Twitter, according to its general counsel Vijaya Gadde. In a post on the site's corporate blog, he writes:

[T]oday, we filed petitions for lawsuits we have been working on together with our independent Turkish attorney over the last few days in various Turkish courts to challenge the access ban on Twitter, joining Turkish journalists and legal experts,Turkish citizens, and the international community in formally asking for the ban to be lifted.

The purported legal basis for the ban is three court orders (none of which were provided to us prior to the ban) and a public prosecutor’s request.

Two of the three court orders relate to content that violated our own Rules and is already suspended. The last order instructed us to take down an account accusing a former minister of corruption. This order causes us concern. Political speech is among the most important speech, especially when it concerns possible government corruption. That’s why today we have also petitioned the Turkish court on behalf of our users to reverse this order.

The ban, as instigated by Turkey's telecommunications regulator, was not a blanket firewall (making comparisons with countries like North Korea somewhat overdramatic) that cut the site off from the country's internet entirely. Instead, ISPs would simply block direct access for its users to Twitter's DNS - a similar tactic to that used by the UK's own porn filter, introduced recently by the government and pet project of David Cameron. Turkish Twitter users, quickly aware of what was happening, simply worked around the block with a myriad different tactics, from using public proxies and DNS servers (like Google's 8.8.8.8 public DNS, which appeared spray-painted onto walls, streets and posters around the country) to simply texting their tweets in via SMS.

Prime minister Erdogan, the instigator of the ban on the grounds that the service was violating the privacy of some of its users (as Gadde refers to above, this was dubious at best), has done little to assuage his critics - including Turkey's president, Abdullah Gul, who was one of those who joined in evading the ban.