26th March 2014 – A court in Turkey has ordered the suspension of a controversial ban on the social media site Twitter but it could be weeks before it takes effect. Turkish users of Twitter expected to regain access shortly after the ruling but it remained blocked. The country’s telecommunication authority (TIB) has 30 days to decide whether to lift the ban. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to “wipe out Twitter” after users spread allegations of corruption. Twitter itself has filed a challenge to the access ban.
It said it had acted on two out of three Turkish legal orders but had concern about the third order as it was a request us to suspend an account accusing a former minister of corruption.
“This order causes us concern,” its general counsel, Vijaya Gadde, said in a statement. “Political speech is among the most important speech, especially when it concerns possible government corruption.” At a rally ahead of important local elections on Sunday, Mr Erdogan was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying: “I don’t understand how people of good sense could defend this Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. There are all kinds of lies there.”
A ban was imposed on Friday on the grounds that Twitter had failed to remove the allegations of corruption involving senior officials. A number of complaints were filed to courts, arguing the ban was illegal and unconstitutional. The administrative court in Ankara issued a temporary injunction on Wednesday ordering the TIB to restore access to Twitter until it could deliver its full verdict on the ban. Turkish media reports suggested the ban would be suspended soon afterwards but a source in Mr Erdogan’s office told Reuters news agency the TIB had 30 days to implement or appeal against the court ruling. Thirty days is a standard period in such cases. “The millions of people in Turkey who turn to Twitter to make their voices heard are being kept from doing just that,” Ms Gadde said. “There are no legal grounds for the blocking of our service in Turkey,” she added.
Users have found many ways of circumventing the prohibition, which has been widely criticised and ridiculed. As of Wednesday afternoon, the top trending term in Turkey was a political slogan attacking Mr Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party. Just behind it was a pro-Erdogan term.