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Turkey

Tech-savvy Turks, led by President Gul, flout attempted Twitter ban

Turkish President Abdullah Gul has criticized government attempts to block microblogging site Twitter. He did so in a series of messages on Twitter. Gul was by no means the only Turk to wriggle out of the restrictions.

Despite ban, Turkey keeps tweeting

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's attempt to block the Twitter social media platform proved neither popular nor particularly effective on Friday. The site went black in Turkey late on Thursday, after Erdogan said in a speech that he intended to "wipe out" the service.

Twitter, a brief, 140-character format well suited to sharing links to information elsewhere online, had become a popular vehicle to spread audio recordings that appeared to incriminate Erdogan and other top government officials in corruption cases.

"A complete ban on social media platforms cannot be approved," President Abdullah Gul, a former ally of Erdogan who has become increasingly critical in recent months, wrote in one of five Twitter messages published during the blackout.

"I hope this implementation won't last long," he said in another Tweet. Gul has almost 4.5 million "followers" on the social media platform.

Above-average Turkish traffic

Twitter's own @support handle issued a message telling Turks how they could still write messages on the social media site using SMS "text" messages from their mobile phones. Meanwhile, cheat sheets in the Turkish language, explaining how to circumvent such bans more completely using Internet proxies and other workarounds, were distributed by members of the public in response.

According to the social media analysts at Brandwatch, more Twitter messages emanated from Turkey on Friday - in spite of the ban - than was the case on Wednesday before Erdogan's announcement.

Twitter boasts some 10 million Turkish users, with Turkish-language hash-tags regularly making the list of global trending topics. "#TwitterIsBlockedInTurkey" and "#TurkeyBlockedTwitter" both made the list on Friday.

Turkish voters will take part in local elections on March 30; the campaign has been impacted by the corruption allegations against the government.

The European Union commented critically on the attempted ban, after Erdogan had said he was "not interested" in the international reaction to his decision.

"The ban … raises grave concerns and casts doubt on Turkey's stated commitment to European values and standards," EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle said in a statement. Turkey has long sought EU membership but is struggling with several outstanding hurdles to this target - not least the division of EU-member Cyprus.

msh/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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