Friday, 21 March 2014

Turkey blocks Twitter access, considers outright ban of other social media platforms

Turkey’s courts have blocked access to Twitter days before elections as Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan battles a corruption scandal that has seen social media platforms awash with alleged evidence of government wrongdoing.

The ban came hours after a defiant Erdoğan, on the campaign trail ahead of key March 30 local elections, vowed to “wipe out” Twitter and said he did not care what the international community had to say about it.

Erdoğan’s ruling AK Party has already tightened Internet controls, handed government more influence over the courts, and reassigned thousands of police and hundreds of prosecutors and judges as it fights a corruption scandal he has cast as a plot by political enemies to oust him.

The social media platform had been blocked by the courts after complaints were made by citizens that it was breaching privacy. It said Twitter had ignored previous requests to remove content.

“Because there was no other choice, access to Twitter was blocked in line with court decisions to avoid the possible future victimization of citizens.” 

San Francisco–based Twitter said it was looking into the matter but had not issued a formal statement. The company did publish a tweet addressed to Turkish members instructing them on how to continue tweeting via SMS text message.

Turkish citizens were quick to come up with ways to circumvent the block. The hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey quickly moved among the top trending globally.

The disruption sparked a virtual uproar, with many comparing Turkey with Iran and North Korea, where social media platforms are tightly controlled.

There were also calls to take to the street to protest, although some equally called for calm.

The move was only the latest clash between Turkey’s ruling party and social media companies including Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

After a series of popular protests partly fueled by Twitter last summer, Erdoğan slammed the service as “a scourge.”

Shortly thereafter, a government minister asked Twitter to establish an office in Turkey so that it could better communicate requests to take down content or hold the company accountable to Turkish law. Twitter did not respond to the request.

Erdoğan said two weeks ago that Turkey could also ban Facebook and YouTube, which he says have been abused by his enemies after a stream of audio recordings purportedly revealing corruption in his inner circle emerged online.

But a senior official said on Friday there were no immediate plans to do so. The path was taken to block access within the framework of a court decision because of the failure to overcome the problem with the management of Twitter. the official said.

At the moment there is no such a decision for Facebook and other social media ban.

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