In another case of growing tensions between governments and social media, Turkey has moved to block Twitter.
In March this year, Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed Twitter was used to spread “wiretapped recordings that have damaged his government’s reputation”. However, after he first announced the ban, users could still bypass and access the social media site, including Turkish president Abdullah Gül himself.
However, according to global reports, Turkey is now stepping up the ban ensuring the usage of Twitter is curbed nationwide. “Internet service providers in the country are now blocking the addresses used by the site, making it significantly more difficult to get around the restrictions,” The Guardian reported quoting analysts.
What’s Twitter doing?
Meanwhile, Twitter, which coincidentally is celebrating its eighth birthday, isn’t staying mum on the issue. In the first round of communication it said:
Turkish users: you can send Tweets using SMS. Avea and Vodafone text START to 2444. Turkcell text START to 2555.
— Policy (@policy) March 20, 2014
As the government stepped up its efforts to implement the ban, Twitter again displayed its support to its audience saying this:
We stand with our users in Turkey who rely on Twitter as a vital communications platform. We hope to have full access returned soon.
— Policy (@policy) March 21, 2014
Governments banning internet giants are by no means a new development, but every time such a move happens, it raises a question on the role of social media and the way it is dealt with by governments in distress.
The recent ban on Twitter in Turkey is a classic case of an establishment becoming insecure and abusing its power to control communication channels in a nation for its own benefit, says Prantik Mazumdar, managing partner of Happy Marketer.
While it’s common practice for various governments to request or order websites and social media sites to censor content, it is another thing to try and completely “root out” a popular social networking channel such as Twitter.
“The question that begs to be asked is why is Erdogan and co. blaming the channel rather than the messenger or the message itself?” he says.
“If he does believe the allegations being made are fake and vile, I am sure he can take the concerned parties to task through the legal avenues available.”
According to Mazumdar, a channel such as Twitter provides an equal opportunity for all to communicate and air their views. Hence, it would have been smarter and more effective if Erdogan had chosen to actively share his perspective and amplify the reach of his voice to the 4.173 million followers he has on Twitter (the third largest for an individual profile in Turkey) rather than attempt to ban the channel.
“On the whole I think such episodes are a blot on Turkey’s rise as an emerging market and will do no good to investor confidence,” he said.
“I would have thought that following the Arab Spring in 2010, a country like Turkey would have taken a more sensible approach towards monitoring and mediating online conversations. It is vital governments create balanced policies governing internet broadcasting rather than take such undemocratic and ineffective stances.”
For the first few days, the ban had very little impact on the Twitter activity from Turkey.
As per a report from Twitturk, the country had been posting about 500,000 tweets every 10 hours despite the ban; on a usual day Turkey posts about 1.8 million tweets every day.
“This should be a good learning lesson for Erdogan and co. that in today’s world it is quite cumbersome to ban access to such sites given the numerous VPN-based work that’s available out there,” Mazumdar said.