Turkey: Citing Illegal Content, Courts Block Twitter Days Before Elections

Published: 21 March 2014


Hours after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to shut down Twitter because it was allegedly spreading false corruption claims, users in Turkey found their access to the social media site restricted.

Those who tried to access Twitter were re-routed to a website displaying Turkish court orders for its closure.

According to al Jazeera, authorities blocked the social media platform because it did not remove certain “illegal” content such as voice recordings and documents allegedly showing corruption in Erdogan’s government.

No_twitterIn one leak, Erdogan supposedly instructs his son to get rid of a stash of money because of a police corruption probe. Erdogan has said the recordings are false, and part of a smear campaign aimed at discrediting him before the March 30 elections.

In a rally Thursday, Erdogan told supporters, “Twitter, mwitter!” (which roughly  translates to “Twitter, schmitter!”) reports Voice of America. He said that if Twitter officials do not implement court orders, he would block access to the site.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul denounced Erdogan’s threat, tweeting "A complete ban on social media platforms cannot be approved," to his more than four million followers.

The blockage of Twitter has caused an international uproar, with people calling for street protests and comparing Turkey to Iran and North Korea. According to the Wall Street Journal, Turkey is one of the top ten users of Twitter, with millions of users.

Twitter said they were investigating the blockage, and tweeted instructions on how users can still post on the site using SMS text messages. The hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey is trending globally.

“The international community can say this, can say that. I don't care at all. Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is,” said Erdogan. 

The government has also shut down other social media sites, reports the Wall Street Journal. Between 2007 and 2010, YouTube was sporadically banned because of perceived insults against the first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

In February, Erdogan passed a law allowing the government to shut down websites without a court order.

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said the Twitter shutdown is temporary, reports Al Jazeera, and said he expects a "mutual solution" will be found.

The Republican People's Party (CHP), which is the main opposition to Erdogan’s AKP Party, said it will challenge the legality of the court order.