Erdogan’s attempt to choke off social media fails in first instance

Access to Twitter has been restored in Turkey, according to internet monitoring company Netblocks.

Erdogan government choked off Twitter 36 hours after the earthquake as anti-government commentary and accusations of lethargic state response dominated the narrative. According to Turkish sources, government reps negotiated with Twitter resp to end the blockade in return for the latter restricting access to 10 key opposition figures, whose followers exceeded 500K.


At the time of the filing of this report, all the dissident accounts were active.



“The restoration comes after authorities held a meeting with Twitter to ‘remind Twitter of its obligations’ on content takedowns and disinformation, ” the firm tweeted.


Earlier on Wednesday, NetBlocks said traffic filtering had been applied at the internet service provider level that was preventing Twitter users from reaching the social media site.


The report coincided with user claims that Twitter was inaccessible in the country still reeling from a devastating earthquake and as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began a tour of the affected region. The Turkish Police Force said Wednesday it had arrested five people and detained 18 after sharing “provocative posts.”


Social media users had earlier lambasted the curbs.


“While all rescue teams are communicating with Twitter, it’s a good idea to turn off Twitter to silence dissent. Good for you,” prominent Turkish journalist Fatih Altayli wrote Wednesday on his Twitter account. Altayli has been coordinating aid efforts through Twitter since Monday.


Turkish actor and comedian Cem Yilmaz tweeted: “Is there an explanation for the restriction on Twitter when it may be useful for saving lives? While many benefits are obvious for 3 days. At a time like this? I give up.”


Some Twitter users made appeals to Twitter CEO Elon Musk for help, tagging his Twitter handle in an apparent effort to flag the issue for his attention. Musk later tweeted: “Twitter has been informed by the Turkish government that access will be reenabled shortly.”





Erdogan has been unable to dominate the conversation in the social media, despite rumors of deploying a 10K army of AKP-trolls, called AK-trolls. It is also rumored that key names in his administration, such as the hawkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu had their own private troll troops.


Two pieces of legislation passed to  censor content on social media are in effect but proved toothless. Many pro-opposition figures claim that Erdogan intends to cut off access to social media on the eve of elections, tentatively scheduled for 14 May, to control the count and if necessary to arm-twist the election monitoring agency High Election Council to annul it.


An unintended consequence of Erdogan’s efforts to collar social media has been an explosion in VPN usage, which may have reached 40% of users, according to some Turkish reports.


If the government can’t control social media content on the election night, any cheating would be quickly detected and Erdogan’s potential claims to victory cast in doubt by the majority of voters.


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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.