Turkish president tweets opposition to shutdown
ISTANBUL—Turkey blocked access to Twitter on Thursday, hours after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to “eradicate” the social media platform, reported Hurriyet Daily News.
“We now have a court order. We’ll eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic,” Erdogan said at his campaign rally in the western city of Bursa on March 20, 10 days before the upcoming local elections.
Erdogan’s press office later clarified the statement, arguing that Twitter officials currently “ignore” some court rulings in Turkey, which order the social media platform to “remove some links” as per the complaints filed by Turkish citizens.
“[In Erdoğan’s speech] it is stated that as long as Twitter fails to change its attitude of ignoring court rulings and not doing what is necessary according to the law, technically, there might not be a remedy but to block access in order to relieve our citizens,” the statement said.
Just before midnight, access to Twitter was already blocked in Turkey. The Communication Technologies Institution (BTK), which was given extraordinary powers with the recently passed Internet law, lists three court rulings and one prosecutor decision on its website as the reason of the outage.
Eventually, all Internet service providers in Turkey have abided by the rulings, as Turkish social media users have started to figure out ways to circumvent the blocking, like DNS-tweaking and VPN services.
Interestingly, Turkish President Abdullah Gul publically expressed his disagreement with the access restriction of social media websites, in his first remarks on the Twitter ban.
“A total shutdown of social media platforms cannot be approved,” Gul tweeted via his own account on Friday.
Despite stressing that no such ban could be fully implemented, Gul expressed his hope that the government’s move would not last long.
“As I have said many times in the past, at the point where communication technologies have reached today it is technically impossible to entirely block access to social media platforms used across the world such as Twitter. I hope this practice will not last long,” he wrote.
Gul had assured that there was no question of blocking access to social media platforms or popular sharing websites such as YouTube, following the recent enactment of a controversial law increasing government control over the Internet.
Twitter has taken action against the Turkish government’s blocking of access to it and hired a lawyer expert in litigations related to cyberlaw.
Lawyer Gonenc Gurkaynak has confirmed that he was meeting with officials from Turkey’s Telecommunications Authority in Ankara on behalf of Tweeter, adding that discussions for finding a legal solution were ongoing. In the past, Gurkaynak had worked on the legal case against the ban on YouTube.
But a government minister stressed that Twitter get permanent legal representative and enhance its cooperation with the Turkish authorities.
Industry Minister Fikri Isık said that the social media site should agree to block individual accounts if it is to resolve a disagreement that has led the government to block access to the service.
Meanwhile, The Union of Turkish Bar Associations filed a petition Friday in an Istanbul court for the lifting of the ban.
In a written statement, TBB head Metin Feyzioglu said the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office had lost all its authority with the recent legal changes removing specially authorized prosecutors and therefore could not rule to implement such a ban.
“With the ban, the TTB and millions of citizens cannot access Twitter for reasons we still do not know,” the statement read. “A total ban on Twitter access is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Turkish Constitution and Law 5651 that includes Internet regulations. The TTB has applied to the courts for the immediate lifting of the ban. In addition, criminal complaints have been filed for those responsible for the ban ruling and the officials who applied the ban,” Feyzioglu said in the statement.