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RIGHTS > Turkey unblocks Twitter, but concerns remain

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Turkey has finally started to unblock Twitter on April 3, a full 24 hours after the Constitutional Court ruled that the ban was a violation of free speech.

An official from the Prime Ministry has confirmed to daily Hürriyet that the decision to block access to Twitter has been rescinded.

The Constitutional Court unanimously ruled April 2 that the ban was a violation of free speech guaranteed by Article 26 of the Constitution, following individual complaints filed separately by Professor Dr. Kerem Altıparmak, Professor Yaman Akdeniz and Sezgin Tanrıkulu, deputy chair of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Tanrıkulu applied to Turkey’s Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) for the opening of the website on April 2, but the government only began to move to open the micro-blogging site on the evening of April 3.

TİB blocked access to Twitter March 20, just 10 days before the local elections. Hours before the ban, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to close down the social media platform.

Before the elections, dozens of leaked phone conversations depicting state officials engaged in alleged graft were loaded onto the video-sharing website YouTube and shared on Twitter. 

The Turkish government subsequently blocked YouTube and widened the ban. After an initial spike, Twitter usage in Turkey decreased almost 50 percent. 

The government had justified its decision by publishing three court rulings and one prosecutor’s order on the TİB’s official website as the ban took effect.

The TİB has removed all the references to the legal decisions April 3, one day after the Constitutional Court ordered the authorities to lift the ban.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy chair Mustafa Şentop spoke to CNNTürk earlier in the day and said the Constitutional Court ruling was “full of contradictions” as Twitter could only be opened for the three complainants; Altıparmak, Akdeniz and Tanrıkulu.

However, all Turkish citizens are expected to regain access to Twitter after the TİB’s final decision to unblock the social media platform will be conveyed to and practiced by each Internet service provider (ISP) in Turkey.

"We are encouraged by the news from Turkey today and welcome our Turkish users back to Twitter," the social media platform's official account @policy has said.

The U.S. Department of State had earlier welcomed the Constitutional Court ruling, urging Turkey to implement it without the shortest delay. Twitter also won a court case against the Turkish government March 29.

Although mobile network operators have become the first ISPs to unblock Twitter late April 3, many Turkish users suggested on social media that they'll keep using the online "backdoors" including virtual private networks (VPN) to circumvent the continuing ban on YouTube.

Others said they remain concerned, as Google DNS service is still being intercepted in Turkey, allowing Turkish authorities to collect personal information silently if need be.

More than 40,000 websites are still blocked in Turkey, according to a list updated by engelliweb.com, a website seen as one of the most authoritative resources on the issue.

April/03/2014

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