Bloomberg News

Erdogan Defends Blocking Twitter Before Local Turk Elections (1)

March 23, 2014

Twitter Blocked in Turkey

A woman writes slogans during a protest in Ankara against Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the government blocked access to Twitter, on March 21, 2014. Photographer: Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan defended his efforts to bar access to Twitter Inc. as his government tried new tactics to keep Turks from dodging the controls, Hurriyet newspaper reported.

The curbs on social media were imposed March 22 after Turks tweeted links to recordings and documents that purport to link Erdogan to the graft allegations that have entangled his government before March 30 local elections. The move failed, and the government has since cut links to two Google Inc. (GOOG:US) services that allowed Turks to circumvent the ban, including access at the service-provider level today, according to Hurriyet. Calls to Erdogan’s office and the telecommunications agency weren’t answered today.

“Twitter has not been shutting down those accounts despite warnings,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in the northwestern city of Kocaeli today. “This Twitter (TWTR:US), this YouTube, this Facebook (FB:US) they have shaken families at their root. Are not we going to take a stance against those attacking our nation?”

“Preventive measures” were taken in response to Twitter’s defiance of hundreds of court rulings, Erdogan’s office of public diplomacy said yesterday in a statement accusing the social media site of “systematic character assassinations.” The attempt to shut down the service has drawn U.S. and European condemnation, with the U.S. State Department calling it “21st century book-burning.”

Other Bans

Erdogan has said he may also ban Facebook Inc. and YouTube, where users have shared videos, recordings and transcripts purportedly from the corruption probe that were first published on Twitter. An anonymous user on Twitter, whose Turkish pseudonym means Sons of Thieves, has posted links to a cache of documents and audio recordings described as part of the investigation. Their authenticity can’t be verified.

Scores of people have been arrested since December on charges including gold smuggling, bribery and bid-rigging. The Borsa Istanbul 100 Index (XU100) has fallen by about 14 percent since then, while the lira has dropped by about 9 percent.

Erdogan has accused U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally, and his supporters within the police and judiciary of illegally wiretapping phones and filming members of the premier’s party, administration and families in an attempt to topple his Islamic-rooted government.

Turkey has said it will lift restrictions on Twitter when the company complies with its requests, including blocking accounts used to spread purported information from the graft investigation. Twitter suspended an adult-content account yesterday, in response to a Turkish government request, state-run Anatolia news agency said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara at shacaoglu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net Amy Teibel, Paul Dobson


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