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RIGHTS > Twitter withholds first Turkish content while suing Ankara over the ban

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News

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Twitter filed two petitions for lawsuits in Turkish courts on March 26 to challenge an access ban on its service, while starting to block access to certain Turkish content for the first time, as requested by Ankara.

“It’s now been six days since the Turkish government blocked access to Twitter. Throughout this time, we’ve been engaged in a discussion with Turkish authorities to hear their concerns, inform them about how our platform and policies work, and try and bring this situation to a resolution. But still, the millions of people in Turkey who turn to Twitter to make their voices heard are being kept from doing just that,” Twitter’s general counsel, Vijaya Gadde, said on the social media platform’s official blog.

“So today, we filed petitions for lawsuits we have been working on together with our independent Turkish attorney over the last few days in various Turkish courts to challenge the access ban on Twitter, joining Turkish journalists and legal experts, Turkish citizens and the international community in formally asking for the ban to be lifted,” the statement said.

Twitter confirmed that the purported legal basis for the ban was three court orders (none of which were provided to Twitter prior to the ban) and a public prosecutor’s request.

“Two of the three court orders relate to content that violated our own rules and is already suspended. The last order instructed us to take down an account accusing a former minister of corruption. This order causes us concern. Political speech is among the most important speech, especially when it concerns possible government corruption. That’s why today we have also petitioned the Turkish court on behalf of our users to reverse this order,” the statement said.

“While we contest the order, we are using our Country Withheld Content tool on the account in question, the first time we’ve used it in Turkey, as well as on several Tweets based on the public prosecutor’s request regarding the safety of an individual,” Twitter said.

@oyyokhirsiza ("no votes to thieves"), which was the subject of a legal complaint filed by former Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım and his son Erkan Yıldırım on March 18, is the withheld account, daily Hürriyet has learned.

The aforementioned tool allows content to be withheld in a specific jurisdiction while remaining visible to the rest of the world. “We’d like to emphasize that at no point during this blockage have we given the Turkish government any user data like email or IP addresses, consistent with our commitment to user privacy,” the statement said.

Why did Twitter file petitions for two separate lawsuits?

“With all announced bases for the access ban addressed, there are no legal grounds for the blocking of our service in Turkey. Furthermore, with positive developments today concerning judicial review of this disproportionate and illegal administrative act of access banning the whole of Twitter, we expect the government to restore access to Twitter immediately so that its citizens can continue an open online dialogue ahead of the elections to be held at the end of this week,” Twitter’s blog post said.

Earlier in the day, an Ankara court issued a stay of execution ruling on the decision to block Twitter and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç announced that the decision would be implemented.

Twitter filed the first petition for lawsuit against the earlier court ruling ordering the suspension of the account, @oyyokhirsiza. In a second petition, the social media platform applied to the Turkish court for the overall unblocking of its service in Turkey.

March/26/2014

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