Twitter earlier this week defended its decision to restrict access to some content in Turkey ahead of the country’s presidential election. The social media company said it had to choose between limiting access to some content or being throttled completely by the Turkish government.
“We were in negotiation with the Turkish Government throughout last week, who made clear to us Twitter was the only social media service not complying in full with existing court orders,” Twitter’s Global Government Affairs (GGA) unit said in a Tweet that included a copy of the court orders.
“We received what we believed to be a final threat to throttle the service – after several such warnings – and so in order to keep Twitter available over the election weekend, took action on four accounts and 409 Tweets identified by court order.”
“Five court orders have been issued against Twitter regarding these actions and we have already objected to four of them. While one of our objections has been rejected, three of them are still under review. We are filing our objections to the fifth order tomorrow,” GGA wrote.
Twitter owner and self-described free speech absolutist Elon Musk also posted a retort to criticism from Bloomberg columnist Matthew Yglesias, where he wrote “Did your brain fall out of your head, Yglesias? The choice is have Twitter throttled in its entirety or limit access to some tweets. Which one do you want?”
It is too early to say what the long-term consequences of Twitter’s decision will be. However, it is clear that the company is facing a difficult challenge in balancing its commitment to free speech with its need to operate in countries with restrictive governments.
It is also worth noting that in the two decades that right-wing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been in power, much of the country’s media has been under his government’s control, and he has been accused many times of suppressing opposition on social media.
Turkey’s election on Sunday came close but did not result in a winner. Erdoğan received 49.51% of the votes while his top challenger, opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, got 44.48%. The two are headed for a runoff scheduled in two weeks.
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