Turkey's Telcos to Unblock Twitter After a Court Order

 
 
By Robert Lemos  |  Posted 2014-04-03
 
 
 
Protecting borders

Less than 24 hours after Turkey's high court ruled that the government's ban on Twitter violated the nation's constitution, the country's telecommunications regulator pledged to discontinue its latest technical attempts to block the social network by hijacking Domain Name System traffic, according to media reports.

On April 3, Turkey's telecommunications regulator, the Telecommunications Board, or TIB, stated that Twitter access would resume "right after the necessary technical steps are taken," according to The Wall Street Journal. The ban, instituted March 21 at the behest of the nation's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, came following leaks of alleged conversations between Erdogan, administration officials and corporate backers that included discussions about hiding bank accounts and a potential war with neighboring Syria. A week later, YouTube was also banned after the posting of recordings of similar discussions, according to media reports.

Twitter welcomed the news, even as YouTube continued to be blocked.

"We are encouraged by the news from Turkey today and welcome our Turkish users back to Twitter," the company tweeted on April 3.

On April 2, Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled that the two-week-old blocking of the Twitter social network violated Article 26 of the nation's constitution, according to Hurriyet Daily News, a regional news site. The ban had originally taken the form of filtering traffic to Twitter, but later was expanded to include the rerouting of Domain Name System (DNS) traffic to foil attempts to circumvent the block by using extra-national DNS servers.

The country's telecommunications provider, for example, rerouted local traffic that tried to use Google's public DNS servers at 8.8.8.8, according to Internet monitoring firm Renesys. Traffic to a host of other public DNS servers was also rerouted, Doug Madory, senior analyst with Renesys, told eWEEK.

While the immediate issue is on track to be resolved, the hijack of Internet traffic by the Turkish government—along with other nations' operations to filter the Internet—suggests that such information manipulation will become more commonplace in the future, he said.

"I feel like, these days, there are no international events that do not have an Internet component," Madory said. "In the future, as a country suffers some instability, the Internet is always going to become a target."

Turkish citizens could have evaded the filtering by using a virtual private network, or VPN, which encrypts traffic, making it unreadable by eavesdroppers or the government. In addition, using less well-known DNS services could have also dodged the government's rerouting of domain name services. China, with the Great Firewall, had taken a far more comprehensive approach, intercepting any questionable traffic and sending a response before the legitimate server can respond, Madory said.

"I think they have a long way to go to be on par with the Chinese," he said. "I don't know that any country is in the same league as China, but the fact that they are mentioned in the same sentence as China is telling."

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