News / Science & Technology

Turks Skip Suspected Censorship With Internet Lifelines

Turkish protesters sing and shout slogans during a demonstration at Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 5, 2013.
Turkish protesters sing and shout slogans during a demonstration at Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 5, 2013.
Reuters
— Turks are turning to encryption software to thwart any ramp up in censorship of the Internet after six days of anti-government demonstrations and a wave of arrests reportedly for urging people to protest on social media sites.
 
Hotshot Shield, a VPN (virtual private network) that disguises users' identities and encrypts traffic on the Web, said more than 120,000 people had signed up to its service in Turkey since the weekend, more than 10 times typical levels.
 
The software has been used in recent years by democracy movements around the world, including in the Arab Spring, to circumvent government censorship of social media services such as Facebook and Twitter, said David Gorodyansky, founder of Hotshot Shield creator AnchorFree.
 
Authorities in Egypt, Libya and Syria attempted to close down Internet access completely to quell protests.
 
Gorodyansky said authorities had not blocked access in Turkey, but they had “throttled down” speeds, making the sites unusable for periods of time.
 
Police raided 38 addresses in the western port city of Izmir and detained 25 people on suspicion of stirring insurrection on social media with comments on the protest, opposition CHP party deputy Alaattin Yuksel told Reuters on Wednesday.
 
Izmir Deputy Prosecutor Ali Haydar confirmed that a detention order was issued for 38 people, but declined to give information on charges or how many were detained.
 
Before the arrests, protesters in Istanbul had voiced suspicions that the Internet was being restricted.
 
“We had problems accessing Twitter and Facebook Saturday when the protests were intense,” said Deniz Utku, a digital marketing agency founder whose office is close to Taksim Square, the center of the demonstrations. “I used VPN to access social media for 1.5-2 hours. I don't think this [slowness] was caused by the high demand ... We couldn't open the pages without VPN.”
 
The government has made clear its disapproval of social media services, which are being used more and more as newspapers and television come increasingly under the sway of the state.
 
In a television interview last week, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan described sites such as Twitter as a “scourge”, saying they were used to spread lies about the government with the aim of terrorizing society.
 
Regulators and operators, however, said no sites had been blocked.

“No restrictions have been made in accessing social media sites,” Tayfun Acarer, head of the telecommunication regulator Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA), told Reuters.
 
Turkcell, the country's leading operator, said it had not received any request to block mobile communications in any part of Turkey.

“Our technical teams are working to provide uninterrupted communications services as always,” the company said on Twitter.
 
Industry experts said thousands of protesters in Istanbul would have put a heavy strain on networks.
 
Vodafone, a British company that was criticized when it complied with government demands to switch off service in Egypt along with other operators in 2011, said it had increased capacity in Turkey to meet demand for social media, in particular for sending images and video over mobiles.
 
Turks have also turned to other smartphones apps that can be used to maintain communications in case of a clampdown, such as Zello, which allows an iPhone to function like a walkie-talkie. It is currently a top-ranking app, according to App Annie analytics.
 
“The really interesting thing here is that tens of thousands of people are downloading Hotspot Shield and other communication apps in anticipation of further censorship,” said AnchorFree's Gorodyansky.
 
“It just goes to show how evolving internet and mobile app technology is helping to thwart attempts to limit democratic rights and freedoms.”

You May Like

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid