Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has accused Twitter of censoring a hashtag, which created by users sympathetic to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to praise Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, alleging that it is part of a “global operation.”
“Who ordered you to remove the hashtag, #WeLoveErdoğan? Was it an individual, a country, or a terrorist organization?” the minister asked Twitter.
President Erdoğan’s supporters had launched the hashtag #WeLoveErdoğan, which went viral. Some users posted pictures of the president kissing a kid, other glorified him in diffirent ways. Even ministers and senior government officials tweeted under the hashtag to make it visible worldwide. And it did.
In one of these tweets, AK Party deputy Mehmet Babaoğlu posted a picture of the president as he walked off the 2009 World Economic Forum in Davos following a public spat with Israeli President Shimon Peres. “That is why #WeLoveErdoğan,” he posted along with the picture.
“Is it against the Twitter’s principle to say ‘We love Erdoğan?’” Bozdağ asked rhetorically.
“What I think is that this is a part of a global operation that conducted against our president.”
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also tweeted along with the hashtag #WeLoveErdogan. “Our president Mr @RT_Erdogan was greeted with great enthusiasm by U.S. citizens and our compatriots,” Çavuşoğlu, who is accompanying Erdoğan in Washington, tweeted.
The campaign on Twitter comes amid Erdoğan’s much-anticipated visit to the United States. The media reported the US President Barack Obama has refused to meet with Erdoğan despite repeated requests by the Turkish side.
Ankara’s flamboyant mayor Melih Gökçek said the hashtag removed by supporters of Fethullah Gülen, Erdoğan’s friend-turned-foe. Gülen is a renowned Turkish Islamic scholar who resides in rural Pennsylvania.
The mayor posted over 40 tweets with the hashtag on his both Turkish and English accounts. “Admins of Twitter!!! I am warning you.. Members of the Parallel Structure, who escaped from Turkey, are responsible from this censorship..” he posted. Parallel Structure is a term coined by Erdoğan to refer to the Gülen movement, which he accuses is the mastermind behind twin corruption scandals that implicated senior government officials, including Erdoğan’s son, Bilal.
Several social media analysts claimed that the pro-government hackers used Twitter bots to post under the hashtag, prompting Twitter to remove the hashtag. Twitter didn’t announce as to why it removed the hashtag.