Social networking sites Facebook and Twitter are planning to launch an appeal against a Turkish court order that allows authorities to shut down access whenever they want. The campaign is part of the latest crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on social media in Turkey.
Twitter and the video-sharing site YouTube were both inaccessible for several hours after an image circulated of a prosecutor who was about to be executed. The photo showed Mehmet Selim Kiraz with a gun held to his head by a masked man. Kiraz, who was investigating the death of a teenager by a police-used gas canister, had been taken hostage by the banned Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, which is classified as a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States. A staunch Marxist supporter, the group has been responsible for various suicide bombing attacks in Turkey.
Turkey ordered that the networking sites remove the photo, saying it aided terrorism. While Facebook complied, both Twitter and YouTube refused, leading to the temporary shut-down. Facebook and Twitter now want to make sure Turkey cannot enforce this order again, in future.
Carl Bildt, Sweden’s former prime minister and a pro-European supporter of Turkey, took to Twitter in anger, criticising Turkey’s policy:
The April short-term bans come almost one year after Turkey banned Twitter and YouTube for over two weeks. That was in the lead-up to local elections in a move aimed at preventing the general population from seeing leaked recordings of senior officials working for Erdogan during a corruption scandal.
That ban was lifted after the constitutional court ruled that it was a breach of freedom of expression. According to Twitter’s transparency report for the second half of 2014, Turkish authorities made more content removal requests than any other country.