Twitter to challenge Turkish PM’s ban of social network

26 Mar 2014

Social network Twitter is to challenge Turkish authorities over Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to ban the service in the country.

“It’s now been six days since the Turkish government blocked access to Twitter,” said Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s general counsel.

“Throughout this time, we’ve been engaged in discussion with Turkish authorities to hear their concerns, inform them how our platform and policies work, and try and bring this situation to a resolution.

“But still, the millions of people in Turkey who turn to Twitter to make their voices heard are being kept from doing just that.”

Don’t fear the tweeter

Erdogan implemented an IP-level block on Twitter at the weekend in response to users making allegations of corruption on the service.

He vowed to “wipe out Twitter” when the allegations surfaced.

He was quoted by Reuters as saying, “I don’t understand how people of good sense could defend this Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. There are all kinds of lies there.”

Twitter today said it has filed a petition for lawsuits that it is working on with its independent Turkish attorney in various courts.

Twitter joins Turkish journalists, legal experts and citizens formally asking for the ban to be lifted.

A court in Turkey’s capital Ankara has already issued a stay of execution against the banning of Twitter and the ban is expected to be lifted.

“The purported legal basis for the ban is three court orders (none of which were provided to us prior to the ban) and a public prosecutor’s request,” Gadde said.

“Two of the three court orders relate to content that violated our own rules and is already suspended. The last order instructed us to take down an account accusing a former minister of corruption. This order causes us concern.

“Political speech is among the most important speech, especially when it concerns possible government corruption. That’s why today we have also petitioned the Turkish court on behalf of our users to reverse this order.

“While we contest the order, we are using our Country Withheld Content tool on the account in question, the first time we’ve used it in Turkey, as well as on several tweets based on the public prosecutor’s request regarding the safety of an individual. The tool allows content to be withheld in a specific jurisdiction while remaining visible to the rest of the world. We have already provided notice of this action to the affected users, and are posting all information we’re legally able to disclose about the withholdings to Chilling Effects.

“We’d like to emphasise that at no point during this blockage have we given the Turkish government any user data, such as email or IP addresses, consistent with our commitment to user privacy,” Gadde said.

Doves image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years