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Friday, March 21, 2014

Furious reaction after Turkey bans Twitter

People hold placards as they protest against Turkey''s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan after the government blocked access to Twitter in Ankara, on March 21, 2014. (AFP)

Turkey's ban on Twitter ahead of bitterly contested elections brought a furious reaction at home and abroad, with users of the social networking service denouncing the move as a "digital coup" and the president expressing his disapproval.

A court blocked access to Twitter after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's defiant vow, on the campaign trail on Thursday ahead of March 30 local elections, to "wipe out" the social media service, whatever the international community had to say about it.

Industry Minister Fikri Isik said talks with Twitter were taking place and the ban would be lifted if the San Francisco-based firm appointed a representative in Turkey and agreed to block specific content when requested by Turkish courts.

"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 said in a tweet.

A company spokesman declined to say whether it would appoint someone in Turkey but said it was moving forward in talks with the government.

Tech-savvy Turks - President Abdullah Gul apparently among them - quickly found ways to circumvent the ban, with the hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey among the top trending globally.

"One cannot approve of the complete closure of social media platforms," Gul tweeted, voicing his hope that the ban would be short-lived and setting himself publicly at odds with the prime minister.

Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for 11 years, is battling a corruption scandal that has been fed by social media awash with alleged evidence of government wrongdoing. He did not mention the Twitter ban at two campaign rallies.

Turkey's main opposition party said it would challenge the ban and file a criminal complaint against Erdogan on the grounds of violating personal freedoms. The country's bar association filed a separate court challenge.

Twitter users called the move a "digital coup", some comparing Turkey to Iran and North Korea, where social media platforms are tightly controlled. There were also calls for protests.

Telecoms watchdog BTK said Twitter had been blocked by the courts after complaints were made by citizens that it was breaching privacy. It said the social media service had ignored previous requests to remove content.

"Because there was no other choice, access to Twitter was blocked in line with court decisions to avoid the possible future victimisation of citizens," it said.

European Union Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said the move raised grave concerns and "cast doubt on Turkey's stated commitment to European values and standards". Turkey has been seeking membership of the EU for decades.

Germany, home to the largest Turkish diaspora in Europe, said the move did not fit with its view of freedom of expression, while the British Foreign Office said social media had a "vital role to play in a modern democracy".

Twitter published a tweet to Turkish users instructing them on how to continue tweeting via SMS text message.

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Tags:  World  Turkey  Erdogan  Protests  Twitter  





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