Ankara says ‘common ground’ not shaken after Twitter denies opening of Turkey office

Ankara says ‘common ground’ not shaken after Twitter denies opening of Turkey office

Ankara says ‘common ground’ not shaken after Twitter denies opening of Turkey office

Twitter’s head of global public policy, Colin Crowell (C), met with Turkish officials in Ankara on April 14. AA Photo

A Turkish official has stressed that the “common ground” recently found between Ankara and Twitter executives has not been shaken, after Colin Crowell, Twitter’s vice president in charge of global public policy, reportedly said the San Francisco-based company had no immediate plans to meet government demands to open a local office. 

“We explained the process, and re-established ties and open relations with Turkey’s government. We did not agree to open an office; our decisions to open offices around the world are based upon whether the underlying economic climate justifies it,” Cromwell told the Wall Street Journal on April 16, in a move unlikely to satisfy Ankara in the ongoing dispute.

Semi-official Anadolu Agency had reported on April 15 that Twitter officials accepted Turkey’s demand to act “more quickly and in a more sensitive manner” regarding rulings by Turkish courts on April 14, in the first direct talks following a two-week ban that was imposed on the site. “Common ground has been found between Turkey and Twitter,” the agency said.

After Crowell’s remarks were reported, Twitter was full of Turkish comments criticizing the pro-government media for suggesting that the company was bowing to pressure from Ankara.

Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu claimed on March 24 that Turkey had “brought Twitter to its knees,” after the company agreed to engage in talks with Turkish officials. Later, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan branded Twitter “tax evaders,” while Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek said social media platforms were dodging taxes if they operated without opening a physical office.

One Turkish official who spoke to the Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity on April 16 said that Ankara had never claimed that Twitter had decided to open an office in Turkey. 

“This a misconception sourced in the media. Twitter didn’t categorically refuse to open an office, which we welcome, but that’s all ... There was no clause about an office in the ‘common ground’ that we found,” the official said.

Ankara sought to explain the newly-found “common ground” with Twitter in terms of four main points: The development of a positive agenda, the promise made by Twitter officials that they would be “more sensitive” and “more responsive” to Turkish court rulings, the possibility of realizing one of the communication models suggested to the company by Turkey, and a more efficient Twitter representation in Ankara.

As a result, Twitter’s Turkish lawyer, Gönenç Gürkaynak, will represent the company as its “contact person” in Turkey, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned. In another “goodwill gesture,” Twitter also agreed to keep unofficial contact between an official from Turkey’s Communication Technologies Institution (BTK) and two of its own executives, including Colin Crowell.

The government official claimed that Twitter also said behind closed doors that it had “done what is necessary” regarding approximately 200 personal requests from Turkish users and five court rulings demanding content removal or account suspension. As of April 15, 25 more Turkish court rulings were waiting for Twitter’s response.

“Our demand for a permanent Twitter office in Turkey continues, but we understand that the company can’t decide on this matter within a few weeks. However, if they want to be an efficient player in this market, we believe that they would - and should - open an office here,” the Turkish official said, adding that Ankara welcomed the company’s “gestures” so far.