“Twitter, mwitter! We will wipe out roots of all” — Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of Turkey
The Turkish government banned Twitter, YouTube and Vimeo on Thursday, March 20th, after the social media network had been used to disseminate recordings of telephone conversations and disclosed documents that appeared to incriminate government officials and some of their family members and associates in a extensive corruption investigation. The Twitter block occurred 10 days prior to local elections.
After trying to reason with Twitter and get the company to remove content, the government issued a statement describing Twitter’s lack of cooperation and the possibility of a ban going forward. Many Twitter users reported blockages on Twitter immediately and others quickly advertised websites to circumnavigate the block.
While some may say that the Twitter ban is a matter of national security, others see this as just one of many examples of Turkey becoming increasingly intolerant of free speech. Government believes that because companies like Twitter and YouTube are international companies, they have to respond in accordance with the individual countries customs and culture. Turkish government is of the belief that they have the right to maintain the dignity of individuals, and if social media compromises dignity, they can interfere. This is an interesting statement on social media and the permanency of the Internet. Government opponents reject this explanation as they use it to organize, and saw the ban as a way to prevent them from voicing their opinions and decimating the leaked data and information prior to the elections. So, is ban on Twitter really a legal issue? Well, I would say that while it halted some of the citizens’ ability to organize and share information, many were able to get around the blocked site and accomplish what they had hoped to. At the same time, I believe that the reasoning being used to describe the government’s actions is unfair and is certainly in violation of human rights.