Turkey tried to censor Twitter thousands of times last year
Twitter’s latest government transparency report reveals details about a very open secret in Turkey: The Turkish government is cracking down hard on social media.
According to the report, which is updated twice a year, the Turkish government made 493 requests for account information and 2,232 requests to remove accounts or content in the second half of 2016. It marked a 76 percent and 25 percent increase, respectively, from the first half of 2016.
Twitter says it didn’t comply with any of the information requests, and that 19 percent of the removal cases resulted in “some content [being] withheld.”
Over the past few years, Turkey’s government under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has cracked down on free speech and attempted to restrict internet and social media usage. In the second half of last year, according to the transparency report, it led the world in Twitter takedown requests. The second country listed in the report (France or Brazil, depending on the specific metric used) wasn’t even close.
In March 2014, the government banned Twitter in a notorious edict that backfired, as people flocked to Twitter using tools to get around the government block. Less than a month after the ban was implemented, a Turkish court struck it down. Around the same time, Turkish authorities clamped down on YouTube, calling military-related leaks that ended up on the site a national security threat.
In November of last year, Erdoğan jailed 120 journalists in a sweeping crackdown on the press. Around the same time, the Turkish government reportedly suspended access to social media services immediately after the detention of 11 Kurdish-backed politicians.
Reporters Without Borders noted last year that Turkey imprisons more journalists than any other country. Turkey is ranked 151 out of 180 countries in the organization’s annual press freedom rankings.