Twitter wins key case against Turkish government

Twitter wins key case against Turkish government

Twitter wins key case against Turkish government

Former Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım was particular aggrieved at the content from the Twitter account @oyyokhırsıza (no votes to thieves).

Twitter has won a court case against the Turkish government's decision to block access to the social media platform in Turkey, CNNTürk television has reported.

The Telecommunication Directorate (TİB), which is affiliated with Turkey's Transport, Maritime and Communication Ministry, blocked Twitter March 20, hours after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to close it down. 

Turkish authorities listed three court rulings and one prosecutor decision as the reason to block Twitter. The most striking verdict used as the base of the ban came from the Anatolia 5th Criminal Court of Peace. The court issued the ruling number 2014/181 in response to a complaint filed March 18 by former Minister of Transport, Maritime and Communication Binali Yıldırım and his son. 

Yıldırım, the current mayoral candidate for İzmir from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), requested the court block access to a Twitter account, @oyyokhırsıza (no votes for thievery), and a related blog, claiming “defamation.” @oyyokhırsıza was using strong language to refer to the corruption allegations against Yıldırım and his son.

Twitter filed two petitions for lawsuits in Turkish courts on March 26 to challenge the access ban on its service, while starting to block access to certain Turkish content for the first time, as requested by Ankara. @oyyokhirsiza, which was the subject of Yıldırım's legal complaint, was the first "withheld" account

Twitter's first petition for lawsuit was against the earlier court ruling ordering the suspension of @oyyokhirsiza. In the second petition, the San Francisco-based company applied to the Turkish court for the overall unblocking of its service in Turkey.

Istanbul Heavy Penal Court ruled March 21 that it could not “repeal the ban on Twitter” as the Turkish government’s blocking of access to the social media platform is based on “an executive decision, not a judicial verdict.”

Twitter: Victory for free expression in Turkish court

An Ankara court, on the other hand, issued a stay of execution ruling on the decision to block Twitter March 26 and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç announced that the verdict would be implemented by the government. Legally, authorities have a 30-day deadline to repeal the blanket ban on Twitter.

The latest court ruling reported by CNN-Türk means Twitter will also be able to stop withhelding the aforementioned account, @oyyokhirsiza, from its Turkish users. "State institutions should refrain from actions and procedures that may limit an individual's freedom of thought and opinion," the Istanbul 18th Criminal Court of First Instance reportedly said, while also stressing the factor of public interest in governance.

Twitter has hailed the court ruling on its official blog, adding: "We have now immediately reversed the Country Withheld Content action previously taken to block access to that account in Turkey. This decision is an exceptionally strong win for freedom of expression, and it will be of paramount value for us in protecting Twitter’s users against other attempts at censorship in the future. While it represents a welcome outcome on one aspect of our legal efforts, this decision does not address the broader ban of Twitter in Turkey. We will continue to fight to have the ban lifted on behalf of the millions of people in Turkey who have come to rely on Twitter as a vital communications tool."

The TİB had also blocked access to YouTube on March 27, hours after leaked recordings of a key security meeting between government officials over Syria were published on the video sharing website. The lawsuit filed by the Ankara Bar Association against the decision demands stay of execution and cancelation of the ban on YouTube.