Turkey's powerful prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is raging against social media and dismissing critics as corruption allegations swirl.
Turkey's ban on Twitter ahead of bitterly contested elections brought a furious reaction on Friday, March 21, with users of the social networking service denouncing the move as a "digital coup" and the president expressing his disapproval.
The Turkish government’s court-ordered block of Twitter has been denounced by many as an attempt to quell allegations of official misdeeds. But the government’s threats have not stopped with Twitter; Google has reportedly declined Turkey’s request to remove YouTube videos that allege government corruption, sources told The Wall Street Journal.
Twitter responded by saying on its official @policy feed that Turks could get around the block by tweeting through mobile telephone text services.
Turkish users: you can send Tweets using SMS. Avea and Vodafone text START to 2444. Turkcell text START to 2555.
Until Friday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul had not posted anything on his Twitter account for a solid month. But he got busy after the country’s Prime Minister took the extraordinary step of banning the site inside Turkey.
“I hope this ban will not last long. If there is a violation of privacy on Twitter, only the related pages should be blocked. The platform is impossible to block altogether. Such a ban is also unacceptable.”
Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for 11 years, is battling a corruption scandal that has been fed by social media awash with alleged evidence of government wrongdoing.
Amid a corruption scandal, Erdogan’s government has asked Google in recent weeks to block certain videos from its site in Turkey. Google has reportedly refused to comply, given it believes the requests are legally invalid.
Erdoğan had made repeated threats to shut down social media sites after audio recordings of his alleged conversations suggesting corruption were leaked.
Recordings include an apparent discussion between Erdogan and his son about hiding money, as well as others in which he appears to be interfering in business deals, court cases and media coverage.
The apparently devastating tapes surfaced online only after prosecutors and police involved in the investigation were fired by Erdogan’s government. The premier dismissed the most damaging as a “montage,” yet confirmed the authenticity of others. In one he is heard instructing the obsequious head of a Turkish news channel to cut short an interview with a political opponent. Erdogan also affirmed as authentic a tape telling a justice minister to keep an eye on the criminal case repeatedly brought against a media magnate Erdogan regarded as hostile.
Erdogan has dismissed most of the recordings as "vile" fakes concocted by his rivals, and threatened to ban YouTube and Facebook after crucial local elections on March 30.
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