Turkish minister slams Twitter over flagging of colleague’s tweets

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Turkish Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Adil Karaismailoğlu on Wednesday slammed Twitter over the platform’s flagging of the interior minister’s recent tweets targeting the LGBT community, Turkish media outlets reported.

Twitter has restricted access to two recent tweets by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu that referred to LGBT people as “perverts,” saying the tweets violated the platform’s rules on hateful conduct.

Soylu’s tweets came after two students from the İstanbul-based Boğaziçi University were arrested on Sunday on charges of inciting hatred and insulting religious values in a poster depicting the Kaaba, Islam’s most sacred site, with LGBT flags.

“Who are they to do this? How do they find the audacity to restrict our interior minister’s tweets? He [the interior minister] is an official responsible for the country’s [internal] security,” Karaismailoğlu said after the flagging.

Karaismailoğlu also referred to social media legislation passed last year that required networks with over a million users appoint a representative to handle court orders to remove offending content within 48 hours, saying there is an advertising ban in force against Twitter.

The new media law put forward a series of restrictive measures in the event of noncompliance, including advertising bans and cutting bandwidth. Karaismailoğlu said the government would move on to decreasing Twitter’s bandwidth.

Turkey in January hit Twitter, Pinterest and Periscope with advertising bans after they failed to follow Facebook and appoint a local representative

If the networks continue to ignore the law, Turkey will cut their bandwidth by 50 percent in April then 90 percent by May, thus rendering them effectively inaccessible.

“We wanted a representative, an interlocutor. This subject is a matter of national security, a measure toward the prevention of inappropriate assaults on personal rights. Cybersecurity is part of that as well. The process is ongoing,” Karaismailoğlu said, adding, “It is Twitter’s choice [to comply or not].”

Turkey is the world leader in Twitter censorship

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey leads the world in Twitter censorship according to transparency report data for the years 2012 to 2020, submitting the largest number of takedown requests and court orders.

Court orders and other legal demands combined, the country sent 45,776 requests to Twitter. Japan followed Turkey with 38,941 and Russia with 30,436.

Twitter received 6,513 court orders and 39,263 non-court order requests from Turkey, which was at the top of the list in both categories. The country also sent 347 information requests to Twitter, which did not comply with any of them.

Turkey specified 99,840 accounts for closure/action under court orders and other legal demands, leading the world in the number of accounts identified for legal action.

In terms of accounts withheld by Twitter, Turkey again had the highest number globally with 2,501 withheld accounts, followed by Russia with 340 and India with 238. On Turkey’s request, Twitter withheld 12,135 tweets, nearly half the total number of tweets withheld by the company.

According to research carried out by the Freedom of Expression Association’s (İFÖD) EngelliWeb initiative, by the end of 2019 Turkey had blocked access to 408,494 websites, 130,000 URLs, 10,000 YouTube videos and 6,200 pieces of Facebook content.

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