Access to Twitter has been blocked in Turkey following a speech by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in which he says he will “eradicate” Twitter.
Erdogan cites a court order, but the ban comes just a month after leaked audio purportedly revealing corruption in his direct inner circle. The prime minister denies all of the charges and calls the recordings doctored.
The Information and Communication Technologies Authority, Turkey’s telecoms authority, cites three court rulings and one decision as grounds for the outage. The prime minister’s office has claimed that Twitter has ignored court rulings that require it to censor media after citizens complained. Twitter offered a workaround:
Turkish users: you can send Tweets using SMS. Avea and Vodafone text START to 2444. Turkcell text START to 2555.
— Policy (@policy) March 20, 2014
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The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News offered a translation of Erdogan’s comments. “We now have a court order. We’ll eradicate Twitter,” said Erdogan, “The international community can say this, can say that. I don’t care at all. Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is,” he continued.
The Prime Minister made his fiery comments during a local election campaign trail stop. Countrywide local elections at the end of this month threaten to weaken Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK) after last year’s June protests and a growing corruption scandal was uncovered in December 2013.
Police initially arrested 47 in December and are still investigating. Some leaked tapes supposedly show Erdogan ordering two journalists be fired for a report on Kurdish independence. Another one is of an alleged discussion between Erdogan and his son over how to hide millions in euros.
Erdogan has never been much of a fan of social media. He called Twitter “trouble” during last year’s Gezi Park protests that attracted thousands of protesters over various conservative actions by Erdogan’s government.
He also threatened to block Facebook and YouTube earlier in March, the latter of which was used to post audio and transcripts of some leaked tapes implicating his close allies and family in corruption plots. Hurriyet says YouTube has been blocked By Erdogan’s government in the past.
Soon after the speech, someone registered the domain name mwitter.com, a likely mocking tribute to a line in Erdogan’s Turkish-language speech and left a simple message: “Just tell us to close it down and we’ll do it, Master. We’re ready…”