‘Twitter now toes the line,’ Deputy PM says after two more accounts withheld
Twitter's intervention came after a company delegation led by the global public policy head, Colin Crowell (in picture), held talks on April 14 with officials from the prime minister’s office, the Communications Ministry and telecom authorities in Ankara. AA PhotoDeputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay has declared that “Twitter now toes the line,” after the San Francisco-based social media platform began withholding two accounts that are subject to complaints by Turkey’s political authorities because they violated “personality rights and the right to private life.”
Atalay welcomed the move while speaking to the press in the southeastern city of Kahramanmaraş. “You know that the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) made a decision [to block Twitter]. Then, we said Twitter would come to Turkey, address us and take our court rulings seriously. Twitter now toes the line,” he said.
“Actually, Twitter was already doing this in other countries. Our country will not experience any problems in the future. In this regard, we don’t have any problem with social media,” Atalay added.
The action comes shortly after a senior official from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s office told Reuters that Erdoğan had made an application to the Constitutional Court on April 18 over the failure to implement court rulings requesting the removal of content violating his rights. The prime minister is seeking 50,000 Turkish Liras in compensation.
Twitter, meanwhile, withheld two anonymous Twitter accounts, Haramzadeler, meaning “Sons of Thieves,” and Başçalan, meaning “Prime Thief” – a play on the Turkish word for prime minister – the state-run Anadolu Agency reported late April 19.
The two accounts – which had hundreds of thousands of followers – leaked links of alleged tape recordings between senior government figures, Erdoğan and his family and allies. The content of the majority of recordings were related to a huge graft probe which became public on Dec. 17, 2013, and which involves governmental figures and businesspersons close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
When attempting to access the accounts from Turkey, users see a banner saying “Account has been withheld in Turkey,” Anadolu Agency also said.
Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay has welcomed the move when he made a press statement in the southeastern city of Kahramanmaraş. "You know that the the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) had made a decision [to block Twitter]. Then, we had told that Twitter would come to Turkey, address us and take our courts' rulings seriously. Twitter now toes the line," Atalay said.
"Actually, Twitter was doing this in other countries. Our country will not experience any problem in the future. In this regard, we don't have any problem with social media," he continued.
Erdoğan’s government attracted global ridicule after it blocked Twitter and YouTube in March, to prevent citizens from accessing content purportedly showing AKP corruption.
The Twitter block was lifted earlier this month after the Constitutional Court ruled that it breached freedom of expression, a decision Erdoğan has since said was wrong and should be overturned. YouTube remains blocked in Turkey.
A delegation from Twitter, led by its head of global public policy, Colin Crowell, held talks on April 14 with officials from the prime minister’s office, the Communications Ministry and telecom authorities. There was no immediate deal to open a Twitter office in Turkey or for it to pay Turkish tax, two of Ankara’s key requests.
Yet, following the talks, Turkish officials said Twitter had implemented three important court rulings, adding that it would enact several other decisions within a week, while it considered the other issues.
Turkey has said it wants the removal of tweets it considers harmful to national security, the privacy of individuals and personal rights, and wants Twitter to hand over the IP addresses of those accounts which it views as a threat.
This is not the first time that Twitter withheld Turkish content. @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, became the first account when it was withheld by Twitter on March 18.
The TİB will "pixelate" Twitter posts to eliminate “malicious content,” Communications Minister Lütfi Elvan had said in a written statement April 17, following talks between the microblogging website’s executives and Turkish officials in Ankara.