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Turkey Bans Twitter Ahead of Heavily Contested Election

| 21 Mar 2014 21:18

Twitter has vowed to stand with its Turkish users during what some tweeters are calling "a digital coup."

Turkish courts have banned the use of social network site Twitter today, just days away from a March 30 election that could could cost the ruling AK Party some of its power. The leader of the AK Party, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, had pledged to "wipe out" Twitter in Turkey. Erdogan is currently involved in a corruption scandal, the flames of which were fed on Twitter and other social networking sites.

The Turkish government has said the ban would be lifted if Twitter appoints a representative to Turkey who will agree to block content as requested by the Turkish courts. Twitter has posted a tweet in support of its Turkish users. "We stand with our users in Turkey who rely on Twitter as a vital communications platform. We hope to have full access returned soon," the company wrote on its @policy account.

When asked by Reuters, a Twitter spokesperson declined to say if they would appoint someone as a Turkish representative but said they were currently in talks with the government.

Among those opposed to the ban, interestingly, is Turkish president Abdullah Gul, who helped found the Islamist-rooted AK Party alongside Erdogan. "One cannot approve of the complete closure of social media platforms," Gul wrote in a tweet of his own.

Turkish activists managed to circumvent the ban with the use of the hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey. Twitter also posted instructions on how Turkish citizens can continue tweeting through SMS text messages.

Telecommunications watchdog group BTK said Turkish courts blocked Twitter after citizens made complaints about the service breaching their privacy, Reuters reports. BTK stated that Twitter had ignored previous request from courts to remove content.

Reuters reports that some Twitter users are calling the move "a digital coup," and drawing comparisons to North Korea and Iran. While European leaders have criticized the ban, Erdogan is apparently unconcerned with what the rest of the world thinks. "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," he said.

Source: Reuters

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