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Turkey blocks access to Twitter website

Court-ordered restrictions come hours after PM threatened a ban over publication of corruption claims against him.

Last updated: 21 Mar 2014 11:26
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Turkey has restricted access to Twitter hours after the prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, threatened to shut down the social media platform after users published claims of corruption against him.

Users reported on Friday that they were forwarded from twitter.com a statement from Turkey's telecoms regulator, TIB, which cited court orders for the site's apparent closure.

The statement cited four orders as the basis for blocking the site, where some users in recent weeks have posted voice recordings and documents purportedly showing evidence of corruption among Erdogan's inner circle.

Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is.

Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister

The state-run Anatolia news agency said authorities "technically blocked access to Twitter" because the service had ignored the orders to remove some links deemed illegal, the AFP news agency reported.

Turkey's telecommunications watchdog, BTK, has also confirmed the shutdown.

Turkey's president, Abdullah Gul, has denounced the ban, tweeting to more than four million followers: A complete ban on social media platforms cannot be approved.

In response to the outrage over the move, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said that it was temporary, adding that he expected a "mutual solution" to be reached.  

Twitter said it was investigating the blocking, but had not issued a formal statement. The company did post a message instructing Turkish users on how to continue using the service via SMS text message.

Erdogan on Thursday promised to "root out" and "wipe out" Twitter services, which he said have helped his political enemies conduct a smear campaign against him.

"The international community can say this, can say that. I don't care at all. Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is," he said.

In response to the shutdown, Turkey's main opposition party, Republican People's Party, announced it would file a legal challenge to the court order.

In a move that put him at odds with the prime minister, Turkish president Abdullah Gul also tweeted to denounce the government's move just hours after it was announced.

"A complete ban on social media platforms cannot be approved," Gul tweeted to his more than four million followers.

Leaked recordings shared and linked on Twitter include one in which Erdogan allegedly instructs his son to dispose of large amounts of cash from a residence amid a police corruption probe.

Erdogan insists the recordings are fabricated "vile fakes" and part of a plot to discredit the government ahead of the March 30 election.

Panic measure

Following his speech, Erdogan's office said he was referring to what it called Twitter's failure to implement Turkish court orders seeking the removal of some links and that they may be left with no option but to ban the platform.

"If Twitter officials insist on not implementing court orders and rules of law ... there will be no other option but to prevent access to Twitter to help satisfy our citizens' grievances," the statement said.

The apparent blocking was only the latest clash between Turkey's ruling party and social media companies including Google, Facebook and Twitter.

Turkey's telecoms watchdog confirms Twitter shutdown

After a series of popular protests partly fuelled by Twitter last summer, Erdogan slammed the service as "a scourge".

In an interview with Al Jazeera on Friday, Andrew Finkel, co-founder of P24, an intiative to promote independent journalistm in Turkey, called the latest move as "a panic measure" aimed at stopping more allegations from surfacing.

"There's rumours of much more serious allegations to come," he said. 

Erdogan said two weeks ago that Turkey could also ban Facebook and YouTube, which he says have been abused by his enemies after a stream of audio recordings purportedly revealing corruption in his inner circle emerged online.

His ruling AK Party has already tightened Internet controls, handed government more influence over the courts, and
reassigned thousands of police and hundreds of prosecutors and judges as it fights the corruption scandal.

However, a senior Turkish official told Reuters on Friday the government had no plans to block access to other social media platforms.

"At the moment there is no such decision for other social media like Facebook," the official said.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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