Access to Twitter was restored in Turkey late Wednesday after network restrictions left people in the country unable to use the site, according to internet monitoring site NetBlocks.
The service was temporarily blocked in the country with a top government official saying he tried to quash what he called “disinformation” surrounding a devastating earthquake that killed thousands.
NetBlocks said on Twitter Wednesday that its network data showed access to the platform being restored “following hours of filtering.”
Twitter was blocked for many Turks on Wednesday after a series of earthquakes hit Turkey and Syria on Monday. Nine hours apart and measuring a magnitude of 7.8 in Turkey and 7.5 in Syria on the Richter scale, the quakes were the region’s strongest in nearly a century.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan toured the impacted region on Wednesday. The Turkish Police Force has reportedly arrested five people and detained 18 for sharing “provocative posts.”
Twitter was restricted “by means of SNI filtering on major internet providers TTNet and Turkcell, and subsequently by other operators, with aggregated reachability statistics collected from an initial set of 40 vantage points,” NetBlocks said in a blogpost Wednesday.
This could be bypassed through the use of virtual private networks, or VPNs — tools that encrypt and reroute traffic to remote servers elsewhere in the world to mask a user’s online activity, NetBlocks said.
The internet restrictions led to protests from Turkey’s political opposition and activists, according to Reuters.
It comes after Twitter’s head of global government relations, John Hughes, and its director of public policy in Turkey, Ronan Costello, met with government officials Wednesday.
In a videoconferencing call, Twitter and the Turkish government discussed disinformation, fake accounts and graphic images posted during the earthquake period, according to Omer Fatih Sayan, deputy transportation and infrastructure.
“We reminded the responsibilities of Twitter to our country during this devastating disaster,” Sayan tweeted.
Some Turks reported being unable to use Twitter without installing a VPN. Murat Yildiz, an Istanbul-based lawyer, tweeted: “Internet and Twitter banned in Turkey. We can’t get in without a VPN.”
Government officials had said they were seeking to combat disinformation online following the earthquake.
Opposition figures have criticized Erdogan’s government over its response to the earthquake, which has killed thousands.
Proton, a leading VPN provider, said hourly signups to its service skyrocketed as much as 30,000% from average levels on Wednesday.
The number of people logged onto the service peaked in the hundreds of thousands, Proton said, 10 times higher than its usual baseline in the country.