how-the-turkish-government-exploits-social-media-removal-requests-to-silence-criticism

13-08-19 10:45:00,

By Arzu Geybullayeva

On August 4, the Ankara Criminal Court of Peace issued an order to withhold four Twitter accounts in Turkey. The order affects the accounts of Oya Ersoy, member of the left-wing HDP party (People’s Democratic Party); Turkish music band Grup Yorum, and two accounts related to the Gezi Park protest movement: Taksim Gezi Parki and Gezi Savunmasi.

Ersoy, whose account is certified, is a lawyer and politician. In 2018 she was elected as a parliament member representing the opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP).

Grup Yorum is a veteran Turkish folk band known for their political songs since 1987. “Yorum” means “to comment” and many of the band’s songs look at the problems in the country and channel criticism in lyrics of their songs. For years, their concerts have faced bans and censorship in the country. Most recently, the band’s July concert was banned in the Turkish province of Hatay, and twelve people were detained for singing their songs on the day of the concert. In February 2018, six of its members were declared terrorists. Two of them fled the country for France.

The Taksim Gezi Parki account was set up at the onset of Gezi Park protests, while Gezi Savunmasi tracks court proceedings of protesters and activists arrested during the Gezi Park protests. The 2013 protests first started as an environmental protest movement against the planned demolition of Gezi Park in Istanbul, before turning into a nationwide anti-government uprising bringing together hundreds of thousands of protesters.

At the time of publication, Twitter was yet to comply with the decision, and all four accounts were still accessible in Turkey. The basis for the court’s decision was the protection of national security and public order, in accordance with Law No. 5651 on the Regulation of Publications on the Internet.

These four accounts are among hundreds—if not thousands— of Twitter accounts targeted by the Turkish government using the platform’s “Country Withheld Content” tool (CWC). In 2010, Twitter unveiled the tool which allows it to censor content on a country by country basis.

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