Erdogan threatened to “eradicate Twitter and the kind from its roots and end this breach of privacy and defamation” just hours before twitter was banned in Turkey. An urgent court decision has been passed within the framework of several laws, one of which is anti-terror law. Telecommunications Institute has announced that the ban is directed against defamation, violation of privacy, misinformation.
Since the Gezi Park protests of June 2013, there has been many court cases by Turkish state against Twitter to take down content, block access and share information of users with the Turkish authorities. Twitter, unlike -according to Turkish authorities- other social media platforms (including Facebook), did not open an office in Turkey and complied with Turkish court rulings.
In the last few months Turkey had strenghtened censorship and surveillance laws and infrastructure and Erdoğan had already said that right after the elections all social media platforms would be banned completely. Moreover he had accused Twitter of collaborating in a coup against his rule in Turkey with the participation of a “robot lobby”.
Only minutes after the ban got into effect, there started a campaign, calling people out on streets to protest against AKP. However it seemed very suspicious as when one analyses the twitter accounts of people who write with the hashtag, it is mostly people who previously tweeted for the AKP and actually seem to be bot-accounts of the party. As there has already been declarations that Erdoğan will do anything in order not to leave office, people had been warned that there would be provocations by the government to force people to take to streets and turn violent, thus leading up to a situation when elections could be cancelled.
Already, Erdoğan defied all kinds of restrictions against his party, AKP regarding “election prohibitions” which are aimed at creating a more egalitarian atmosphere without allowing any kind of exploitation of national symbols such as flag or national anthem, or any kind of religious symbols which might lead to unequal terms before elections. This is how AKP’s most recent TV ad got banned but after Erdoğan’s defying continued to circulate on televisions and social media exploiting national anthem, flag and religious values.
The most recent troublesome issues on social media in Turkey have been:
- an informant from Erdoğan’s close circle leaking secret information as to how government is corrupt and is going to try to rig the votes,
- former allies (especially Gülen’s Hizmet movement) declaring open criticism of the government on social media platforms,
- leaked alleged phone conversations of government officials, ministers, prime minister and his family; regarding corruption, insult to religious values, bribes, international arms trade to fighting nations, violating sanctions on Iran, drug trafficking, etc.
- rumours regarding an upcoming sex tape of some government officials or another possible leak about death/killing of a nationalist political leader some years ago
Erdoğan at his party’s rally today in Bursa:
“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”
In the first hours of the ban, millions of users changed settings, used proxies and VPNs to tweet and protest on twitter against AKP’s censorship; Twitter headquarters also enabled sms-tweeting for Turkish users now.