Twitter, banned in Turkey since the 20th March, made an announcement on its official blog, saying it is now using its Country Withheld Content tool to ‘hide’ the controversial Twitter accounts from its Turkish audience, while it is also petitioning the Turkish court to reverse the country-wide ban.
In the statement, the company said there were three accounts which caused controversy within the Turkish government and two of them, which are in violation of Twitter’s own rules, have already been removed. It claims the third one, which tweeted accusations against a former Turkish minister, is a ‘political speech’ and it’s crucial to preserve the right to express such opinions especially when they are about ‘corruption’.
Seeking an end to the ban, the company has decided to use a temporary national suspension for the said account, meaning that it will be visible worldwide except to those users coming from Turkey.
There were rumours last week that Twitter’s lawyers and Turkish officials were holding talks to reach a consensus about the controversial content. Twitter continually refused to remove accounts where corruption allegations were communicated. The ruling AK party, on the other hand, seems determined to ban access to any criticism about the government, whatever it takes.
Today an administrative court also decided to halt the enforcement of the ban on the grounds that the relevant internet law requires the blocking procedure be applied only to the ‘illegal’ page, not to an entire platform. Now everybody is waiting to see if the TIB, the governmental communications authority, will implement the new court ruling and lift the ban.
Below is the full text of Twitter’s press release:
Challenging the access ban in Turkey
It’s now been six days since the Turkish government blocked access to Twitter. Throughout this time, we’ve been engaged in discussion with Turkish authorities to hear their concerns, inform them about how our platform and policies work, and try and bring this situation to a resolution. But still, the millions of people in Turkey who turn to Twitter to make their voices heard are being kept from doing just that.
So today, we filed petitions for lawsuits we have been working on together with our independent Turkish attorney over the last few days in various Turkish courts to challenge the access ban on Twitter, joining Turkish journalists and legal experts,Turkish citizens, and the international community in formally asking for the ban to be lifted.
The purported legal basis for the ban is three court orders (none of which were provided to us prior to the ban) and a public prosecutor’s request.
Two of the three court orders relate to content that violated our own Rules and is already suspended. The last order instructed us to take down an account accusing a former minister of corruption. This order causes us concern. Political speech is among the most important speech, especially when it concerns possible government corruption. That’s why today we have also petitioned the Turkish court on behalf of our users to reverse this order.
While we contest the order, we are using our Country Withheld Content tool on the account in question, the first time we’ve used it in Turkey, as well as on several Tweets based on the public prosecutor’s request regarding the safety of an individual. The tool allows content to be withheld in a specific jurisdiction while remaining visible to the rest of the world. We have already provided notice of this action to the affected users, and are posting all information we’re legally able to disclose about the withholdings toChilling Effects.
We’d like to emphasize that at no point during this blockage have we given the Turkish government any user data like email or IP addresses, consistent with our commitment to user privacy.
With all announced bases for the access ban addressed, there are no legal grounds for the blocking of our service in Turkey. Furthermore, with positive developments today concerning judicial review of this disproportionate and illegal administrative act of access banning the whole of Twitter, we expect the government to restore access to Twitter immediately so that its citizens can continue an open online dialogue ahead of the elections to be held at the end of this week.