Elon Musk, Free Speech Absolutist, Restricts Twitter Accounts In Turkey On Election Eve

Twitter stated Friday night that it is banning some tweets in Turkey ahead of the country’s high-stakes election on Sunday.

The firm tweeted in both English and Turkish that it had “taken action to restrict access to some content in Turkey” beginning Friday, but that the restricted information will still be available elsewhere. Twitter did not indicate which tweets will be blocked or why they would be blocked.

The judgment brings Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s contentious free speech regulations back into the spotlight. Critics claim he is caving in to demands from Turkey’s right-wing leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, this time. Much of Turkey’s media is controlled by the government, and critics accuse Erdogan of cracking down on social media businesses in order to muzzle alternative views as he seeks to maintain power.

Twitter has blocked the accounts of Kurdish businessman Muhammed Yakut and investigative journalist Cevheri Güven. The timing of these limitations, just a day before a crucial election in which Erdogan is reportedly trailing, has generated worries that the action is politically motivated, potentially silencing voices of opposition and influencing the outcome of the election.

Yakut had previously disclosed disturbing information about the Turkish government, specifically about Erdogan, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, and former Finance Minister and Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak.

Yakut has previously stated that he would reveal facts regarding a botched coup attempt in 2016 on Saturday. He earlier stated that the 2016 coup attempt was manufactured and that Erdogan and members of his government were fully aware of it ahead of time. He said Erdogan and the AKP government, as well as then-chief of general staff and current defense minister Akar, were to blame for the deaths of 251 people on the night of the coup.

Güven is a Turkish journalist living in exile in Germany who is wanted by Erdogan. His YouTube videos, in which he discusses the Turkish government’s corruption and dubious relationships, have millions of views.

“It’s a disgrace to democracy and freedom of expression that Twitter has caved to Tayyip Erdoğan,” Güven told Turkish Minute.

The election is the most hotly contested in Turkey in years, with polls showing opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu neck-and-neck with Erdogan, who has cemented power over Turkey during his two decades in power.

Erdogan’s defeat would have far-reaching ramifications both at home, where his leadership has been defined by personalized one-man rule, and abroad, where Turkey’s ties with the US and governments from Europe to the Middle East have been marked by periodic crises. Turkish voters also elected members of parliament on Sunday.

Kilicdaroglu has stated that if elected, he will prioritize democracy while abolishing “authoritarian rule.”

“Turkey is a country of prohibitions,” he said in an interview this week. “When we are in power, Turkey will be a country of freedom.”

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), pro-government businessmen hold 90 percent of Turkey’s national media, which was placed 165th out of 180 nations in the RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index. However, social networks and internet-based media remained largely unregulated, much to Erdogan’s chagrin.

This began to change when Turkey used the prospect of hefty penalties to push tech behemoths like Facebook and Twitter to designate local representatives capable of promptly complying with local court orders to remove disputed remarks.

On Sunday, voter turnout was strong across the country, and there was no evidence that Twitter accounts were being banned.

Following the country’s terrible earthquake that killed almost 50,000 people in February, the government briefly barred access to Twitter and other social media platforms.

Musk doesn’t take criticism well

Washington, D.C. blogger Matt Yglesias tweeted early Saturday morning, “the Turkish government asked Twitter to censor its opponents right before an election, and @elonmusk complied.”

Musk, who plans to step down as CEO in the coming weeks but will continue to control much of the company as CTO, responded and defended the company’s move.

“Did your brain fall out of your head, Yglesias?” Musk tweeted. “The choice is have Twitter throttled in its entirety or limit access to some tweets. Which one do you want?”

The development comes at a time when Musk’s SpaceX is set to launch Turkey’s first domestically produced communications satellite, Türksat 6A, this year. This is part of the deal the aerospace company signed with Ankara back in September 2021.

After reviewing many firms’ offers and possibilities, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailolu said at the time of the announcement that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is the “best option” in terms of technical, administrative, and budgetary considerations.

Turkey will become one of the ten countries capable of producing its own communications satellites as a result of the initiative.

Information for this briefing was found via The Washington Post, Turkish Minute, Daily Sabah, and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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