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Twitter Blocks Content In Turkey One Day Before National Election


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with CEO of Twitter Elon Musk at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on November 8, 2017. [Photo by Turkish Presidency / Murat Cetinmuhurdar / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]

Twitter announced late Friday that it’s blocking some content in Turkey ahead of Sunday’s presidential election in the country. The social media company did not explain which tweets would be blocked, nor who made the request, but current president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously blocked Twitter across all of Turkey.


“In response to legal process and to ensure Twitter remains available to the people of Turkey, we have taken action to restrict access to some content in Turkey today,” Twitter’s Global Government Affairs account announced on Friday.


“We have informed the account holders of this action in line with our policy. This content will remain available in the rest of the world,” the account continued.


President Erdogan, who took power 20 years ago, faces a re-election challenge from Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who is currently even with the autocrat in the polls. If neither candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, a run off election will take place on May 28, according to NPR.


Twitter CEO Elon Musk defended the censorship on Saturday in a tweet to commentator Matt Yglesias, who joked that there would eventually be “Twitter Files” reporting about the incident.


“Did your brain fall out of your head, Yglesias? The choice is have Twitter throttled in its entirety or limit access to some tweets. Which one do you want?” Musk tweeted.

Erdogan and his political party, the AK Party, have received criticism for a slow response to the devastating earthquake that rocked the country in February and killed over 50,000 people. Over 15 million buildings were affected and Erdogan was criticized for allowing lax construction standards that enabled many buildings to collapse during the quake.


U.S.-based human rights organization Human Rights Watch urged social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube to be more transparent about how content moderation was performed.


“As election night draws near it is imperative that social media platforms and the wider internet remain accessible so the public can follow the work of independent election monitors and reporting around the vote count,” Human Rights Watch said in an article published Friday.


“Given the sorry state of Turkey’s mainstream media, the integrity of Turkey’s election depends upon it.”


Erdogan met with Musk in 2017, not long after America’s own aspiring authoritarian leader, Donald Trump, had taken power. More recently, Erdogan and Musk reportedly had a video conference call on December 16, 2021 to talk about lithium batteries for electric vehicles and the launching of satellites. SpaceX signed a deal with Turkey in 2021 to launch its first communications satellite. Musk, who’s CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, also shook hands with Erdogan at the World Cup in 2022.


Twitter responded to questions about the censorship of content in Turkey with a poop emoji, an automated response set up by Musk back in March. I’ll update this post if I hear anything of substance from the social media company.

 

(c) 2023, Forbes

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