December 23, 2008

Bypassing Turkey's Asinine YouTube Ban
Istanbul, Turkey

Turkey and its government really lost some major points when I discovered they censor the Internet pretty damn heavily in this country. This sort of stuff is as irritating as a splinter under your fingernail that you just can't seem to get out.

Why is YouTube Banned/Blocked?

Message displayed when trying to access a censored Web site

YouTube has been banned a number of times in Turkey thanks to videos posted on the site that were deemed to be insulting to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (a deceased Turk who appears to be at near-Muhammad levels of idolization in the country).

The process is that a citizen complains to a prosecutor (or a prosecutor acts on his own) that a video on YouTube contravenes laws that make it illegal to insult Ataturk. The prosecutor then goes to a court which orders that the entire site be closed down.

The court then orders TT-net, the backbone of the Turkish internet to block the site.

In this way it's possible for mischievous, nationalist 14-year-old Greeks to achieve an impressive triple-whammy over the Turks by 1) Making immature jokes about Ataturk in a cheesy video 2) Depriving the entire Turkish population of easy access to YouTube and 3) Making Turkey look like a dismal censorship-prone tyranny of luddites who don't understand the Internet.

In November 2008, the New York Times ran an article concerning YouTube's response to the bans:

Wong decided that Google, by using a technique called I.P. blocking, would prevent access to videos that clearly violated Turkish law, but only in Turkey. For a time, her solution seemed to satisfy the Turkish judges, who restored YouTube access. But last June, as part of a campaign against threats to symbols of Turkish secularism, a Turkish prosecutor made a sweeping demand: that Google block access to the offending videos throughout the world, to protect the rights and sensitivities of Turks living outside the country. Google refused, arguing that one nation's government shouldn't be able to set the limits of speech for Internet users worldwide. Unmoved, the Turkish government today continues to block access to YouTube in Turkey.

Just YouTube? No.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of sites that are blocked/banned here in Turkey. I was quite pissed off when I discovered that I couldn't even access SHOUTcast's streaming radio channels! Absurd!

Getting Around the Bullshit Bans

Several options are available, presented below in escalating levels of difficulty/despair:

  1. Free Proxies: Pretty much the default home page on computers in Istanbul Internet caf├ęs is vTunnel. This site, alongside myriad of other free proxies can be used as they have yet to be banned. This service is paid for by annoying pop-up advertising, but is one way of getting around the ban if you're on a public computer.
  2. Open DNS is quite often enough to get around the bans. You can only use Open DNS if you have administrative rights on your computer (thus leaving many users at work out of the loop). Basically how it works is that when you type any address with a 'name' (not an IP number) you are sent to Open DNS (to look up or 'resolve' the address) instead of Turk Telekom. This opens up most sites that are banned in Turkey.
  3. Hard Coding an update into a Windows system file is a solution that I've had to implement for YouTube, as the Open DNS solution has been working for all sites but this one. See the instructions here for details.

Happy surfing.


The Netherlands

Fight Abuses

March 16th, 2011 is another website where you can access youtube without any problem. Fight Abuses is an free website which try to help Turkish and others where youtube can not be accessed. Hope it help.

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