By David Dolan
Twitter and Facebook have vowed to fight a Turkish ban that briefly blocked access to social media sites this week, a clampdown critics said was further evidence of Ankara’s growing authoritarianism.
Turkey has taken a tough stance on social media under President Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling AK Party he founded, temporarily stopping access to some sites last year and making it easier for authorities to introduce such bans.
In the second half of last year alone, Turkey filed more than five times more content-removal requests to Twitter than any other country, data from the micro-blogging company shows.
Both Twitter and video-sharing service YouTube were inaccessible for hours on Monday, after a Turkish court ordered the removal of images of a prosecutor held at gunpoint by far-left militants.
Facebook, the first of the three to comply with the court order, appeared to have avoided the ban. Representatives of both Twitter and Facebook have said they would launch an appeal.
Google, which owns YouTube, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The laws are being used as weapons by authorities,” said Mehmet Ali Koksal, a lawyer specialising in IT cases. “The government says ‘I will shut you down if you don’t remove so and so’. If this were between two people it would be called blackmail.”
A spokesman for Erdogan said on Monday that a prosecutor had demanded the ban because some media organisations had acted “as if they were spreading terrorist propaganda” in sharing the images of the hostage-taking.
The prosecutor in the photos, Mehmet Selim Kiraz, was killed in a shoot-out between hostage-takers and police last week.