5 Things to Know About Turkey’s Social Media Battle

Published on WSJ.com on March 28, 2014

Turkey’s government is drawing domestic and international criticism for blocking Twitter and YouTube. The bans come just before critical March 30 local elections seen as a test of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s  popularity. Here are five things to know about the government’s bans of these social media sites and the upcoming elections.

  1. WHAT’S HAPPENING IN TURKEY?
Turkey’s government blocked access to YouTube on Thursday. The move came just hours after an audio recording, uploaded anonymously on YouTube, purported to show a conversation in which Turkey’s foreign minister, spy chief and a top general appear to discuss how to create a pretext for a possible Turkish attack within Syria. Just one week earlier, the country’s Internet watchdog had banned Twitter,  hours after Mr. Erdogan threatened to “eradicate” the short-messaging service. A Turkish court granted an appeal Wednesday to end the blockage of Twitter, but it wasn’t immediately clear if the ban would be overturned by the decision. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said the content of the recording on YouTube was doctored, while Mr. Erdogan said the leaks were “villainous.” The Wall Street Journal hasn’t verified the authenticity of the recording.  Turkey‘s government has had greater control over the Internet since February, when its parliament passed a law giving the government sweeping powers to block websites and monitor user activity.  Critics have said the Internet law and recent bans restrict freedom of expression.
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