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Twitter's Compliance with Censorship in Turkey Raises Questions about Its Commitment to Free Speech

The day before Turkey's presidential elections, Twitter accounts critical of President Erdoğan were censored in accordance with Turkish law.


“In response to legal process and to ensure Twitter remains available to the people of Turkey, we have taken action to restrict access to some content in Turkey today,” announced Elon Musk’s Twitter at 6am Turkish time.


This move prompted activists to urge their followers to activate VPNs to bypass the censorship which censors entire accounts and all their tweets, not just specific tweets.


Turkey is a crucial NATO member located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and the results of its elections can have far-reaching implications for global politics, including the ongoing war in Ukraine.


"Don't touch my Twitter" and a sign that reads "right to communicate is a fundamental human right" spotted at a protest in Turkey.

2014


In 2014, then-Prime Minister Erdogan restricted access to Twitter after an embarrassing audio leak allegedly involving him and his son.


A constitutional court ruled the block breached freedom of expression, and despite stating that he does not respect the court's decision, Erdogan complied with the order but later made the pledge to ban social media altogether.


2020


In 2020, as President with unchecked and unmatched powers, Erdogan passed a "social media law" through the parliament that allows punishments such as decreasing bandwidth access to social media platforms that do not appoint a representative in Turkey responsible for handling government content-related requests, storing location information of users, and censoring accounts.


Twitter, which has avoided Turkey's demands and faced access restrictions numerous times, had finally appointed a representative.


2023


Today's move by Twitter to censor accounts has raised questions about Elon Musk's stance on free speech.


As the new owner of Twitter, Musk has said he prefers to "hew close to the laws of countries in which Twitter operates."



This raises concerns about how much influence Musk can wield in aid of free speech, particularly in western democracies where similar laws to Erdogan's social media laws are being passed.


As Turkey prepares to vote in this critical election, all eyes are on the nation.

 

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