ANKARA: Turkey lifted a much-criticized block on Twitter on Thursday (Friday in Manila), 24 hours after its highest court overturned the ban as a breach of the right to free speech.
Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 20 shuttered access to the social media site after it had been used to spread a torrent of anonymous leaks implicating his inner circle in corruption.
Turkey’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and international human rights groups strongly criticized the ban—as well as an ongoing block of video-sharing website YouTube—as a step backward for Turkey’s democracy.
On Wednesday, Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled the Twitter ban violated free speech, and ordered the communications ministry and telecoms authority to reverse it “with immediate effect.”
The government took 24 hours to react. First the telecoms authority TIB removed from its website a court order on the Twitter block, and started contacting Internet service providers to lift the ban.
Shortly after—as many of Turkey’s Twitter accounts came live again—the transport and commu–nications ministry confirmed the move in a brief statement.
“In line with the decision made by the Constitutional Court . . . the measure blocking access to the Twitter.com Internet site has been removed,” it said.
“After the necessary technical arrangements, the site will be opened to use,” it added.
The ban had been widely circumvented by many of Turkey’s almost 12 million Twitter users, who have instead sent tweets via text message or by adjusting their Internet settings.
Many Twitter users quickly commented on the move, with Nervana Mahmoud writing from Egypt, “Joy to the world, the Sultan has agreed,” using a common nickname for Erdogan.
Turkish journalist Adem Yavuz Arslan urged caution, warning that users should maintain the VPNs or virtual private networks they have used to get around the ban.
“Twitter has been unblocked,” he wrote, adding, “But do not change your VPN settings yet. Because the government has the plug on the Internet. It can pull it whenever it wants.”
When the micro-blogging service wasn’t live in Turkey by Thursday morning, critics started pushing, fearing that the government may ignore the order.