Twitter was blocked for at least 12 hours on major Turkish mobile providers in an outage that ended early Thursday, following a flurry of online criticism of the government’s response to this week’s deadly earthquake, Agence France-Presse reported.
By about 5 am (0200 GMT), the social media site was accessible again.
Online monitor netblocks.org on Wednesday showed Twitter becoming throttled and then completely blocked across all major cell phone providers in the country. The site still worked using VPN services that disguise a user’s location.
The country is still stricken after Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake, which killed at least 16,000 people there and in neighboring Syria.
Turkish social media has been filled with posts by people complaining about a lack of search and rescue efforts in their provinces.
Officials have issued repeated warnings about spreading misinformation in advance of a crucial May 14 election in which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will try to extend his two-decade rule.
Netblocks.org confirmed access returned Thursday after Turkish officials held a videoconference call with Twitter executives.
The restoration came after the platform’s owner, Elon Musk, tweeted: “Twitter has been informed by the Turkish government that access will be reenabled shortly.”
Turkish deputy infrastructure minister Ömer Fatih Sayan tweeted Thursday he had spoken with Twitter leaders and “reminded them of their responsibilities to our country after this disaster,” adding that Turkey expected more cooperation in the “fight against disinformation.”
Turkey has in the past restricted social media during national emergencies and safety incidents.
Police have detained 18 people since the earthquake over “provocative” social media posts that criticized the government response.
‘What are we going to do?’
Turkey’s opposition leaders and celebrities warned that Twitter’s absence threatened to disrupt rescue efforts and humanitarian relief work.
“Let’s stop this disgrace immediately,” the secular main opposition CHP party’s leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said.
“We know everything they are trying to hide.”
Nationalist opposition İYİ Party chief Meral Akşener said Wednesday Twitter was needed “to relay the needs of earthquake victims.”
But the government’s apparent decision to block Twitter in the middle of a profound national crisis reverberated far beyond the political sphere.
Turkish rock star Haluk Levent — a crooner with 7.2 million Twitter followers and a non-profit group that is involved in helping people in need — tweeted: “Err, what are we going to do now?”
The Twitter outage came as Erdoğan toured two of the hardest-hit Turkish provinces.
He directly acknowledged “shortcomings” in the government’s handling of the disaster but pledged to redouble efforts to help the victims.
“It’s not possible to be ready for a disaster like this,” Erdoğan said during a visit to hard-hit Hatay province.