After the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan promised that he would “wipe out” Twitter after it apparently ignored court orders asking the site to remove certain corruption allegations, the service has gone dark in the country.
The situation is developing: a site that lets the public track decisions made by the courts over Internet communications indicates that today the “İstanbul Cumhuriyet Başsavcılığı (TMK 10. Maddesi İle Görevli) has been implemented by Telekomünikasyon İletişim Başkanlığı” — it’s the most recent of four Twitter-related decisions made by the court.
So far, that has offered users a way of posting tweets by way of SMS messages:
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
According to earlier reports, the prime minister has been threatening to go after social media sites in his battle to respond to allegations being made on them — specifically Twitter and YouTube — linking him to a corruption scandal. The comments have become increasingly heated as the country gears up for an election on March 30.
“We will wipe out all of these,” he said at a rally in reference to Twitter and other sites where people have been speaking out against him.
This is not the first time that Twitter has been caught in political crossfire and shut down in the process. It was blocked in Egypt in 2011, Pakistan in 2012, and China in 2009, among many other incidents. In France, the government has been battling long and hard with the site over how much influence it should have in forcing it to take down certain tweets and accounts if they violate French law, which sometimes runs counter to wider freedom of speech arguments.
Ilhan Tanir, a Turkish analyst based in Washington who was one of the first to highlight the block, has also published what he says is a statement from the U.S. State Department over the block:
“As we have previously stated, we remain very concerned by any suggestion that social media sites could be shut down. Democracies are strengthened by the diversity of public voices,” the statement reads. “An independent and unfettered media is an essential element of democratic, open societies, and crucial to ensuring official transparency and accountability.”