Today the Turkish government doubled down on its efforts to silence critics online by banning YouTube. The move comes just 24 hours after a court in the capital ordered the telecom authority to lift its ban on Twitter and three days before important local elections. The Google-owned social video service has been used by opponents of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan for distributing audio recordings revealing the administration’s inner-workings, most recently of a conversation between officials about possible military operations in Syria.
YouTube is currently the fourth most visited website in Turkey, behind only Google (in both .com and .com.tr) and Facebook. Due to the site’s popularity, the backlash online and in the streets of Istanbul could be even more severe than the response to the Twitter ban.
The court’s ruling, a response to complaints by Turkey’s Bar Association and its journalists’ union, has not yet been implemented. Turkish Twitter users who have not yet adopted a strategy to circumvent the ban are still unable to access Twitter.com. The Government has 30 days to comply with the ruling.
HootSuite has emerged as one popular option for circumventing the ban in Turkey. On March 21st, the day the ban was first implemented, new accounts were created at four times the average rate in Turkey. This week Turks have been signing up to use HootSuite at more than double their average rate.
This is not the first time the Turkish people have been denied access to YouTube by their government. In 2010, Erdogan lifted a ban that had been in place for more than two years as a response to videos the government characterized as defaming the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Having adapted to the earlier ban, many Turks are already familiar with the most common methods of accessing blocked websites. During the previous ban YouTube was the eighth most popular website in Turkey.
HootSuite users in Turkey can still access YouTube features through the YouTube App. Available in the App Directory, this tool lets users discover, publish, and comment on video content from the HootSuite dashboard.