Twitter joins Turkey’s presidential debate, censoring pre-election messages

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By Webdesk

Turkey is preparing for presidential elections(opens in a new tab) on Sundays that could have ricocheting effects on populations around the world, Twitter takes on its own criticism and restricts certain content(opens in a new tab) related to the election to reportedly keep the site functional in preparation for a predicted flood of posts — but onlookers are waving red censorship flags.


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“In response to a legal process and to ensure that Twitter remains available to the people of Turkey, we took action today to restrict access to certain content in Turkey,” the company’s Global Government Affairs account wrote. a series of tweets on Friday night. “We have notified account holders of this action in accordance with our policies. This content will continue to be available in the rest of the world.”

By Saturday, users were calling out the choice of platform in cries of free speech censorship.

Twitter CEO Elon Musk responded to the immediate comments of concern in his own way, taking to Twitter after the announcement to engage with users. However, Musk raised more concerns by suggesting that the Turkish government had contacted Twitter about the upcoming election in response to a user’s request for the reasoning behind the blockade. Musk wrote: “We were able to post what the government in Turkey sent us. I will do.(opens in a new tab)

Musk also responded to Bloomberg columnist Matthew Yglesias, who accused the CEO and his platform of agreeing to Erdoğan’s censorship demands, by tweeting, “Has your brain fallen out of your head, Yglesias? The choice is to let Twitter completely smothering or accessing some tweets. Which one do you want?”

The hotly contested election could decide the fate of the country’s longest-serving president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been in power for 21 years. Erdoğan’s affiliation with Turkey’s conservative and Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) has cemented his presence as an authoritarian and nationalist figure.

In 2016, parts of the Turkish military, joined by civilians aroused by the social media coverage of the news, attempted a coup(opens in a new tab) to depose Erdoğan, but the deadly attempt failed to remove him from power. The country’s affiliation with Russia has recently pushed Turkey out of favor with other world powers as the leader domestically bribes potential voters with promises of free gas(opens in a new tab) and cell data(opens in a new tab).

This year, as Erdoğan takes on his parliament-focused opponent Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Turkish citizens are also voting with recent natural disasters (and the government’s response) in mind, after a series of devastating earthquakes killed more than 50,000 people and destroyed millions of buildings. has destroyed. in central and northern Turkey. At the time of writing, Kılıçdaroğlu is narrowly ahead of Erdoğan.

At the same time, human rights organizations have warned voters and onlookers about the possibility of nationwide censorship(opens in a new tab) by the Erdoğan government, with some warning of a widespread digital effort to undermine the election results.

“The Turkish government has accelerated its efforts to enforce censorship and tighten control over social media and independent online news sites ahead of this election,” Human Rights Watch senior technology researcher Deborah Brown wrote in a report on the Turkish government. history of oppression and rise in digital censorship tools(opens in a new tab). “The vote will test whether voters in Turkey can rely on social media for independent news and to voice their opinions on the election and its outcome, despite the government’s efforts to put companies under its heels.”

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