ISTANBUL– Apparently Twitter and YouTube were temporarily inaccessible to most of Turkey last week after images of deadly standoff at an Istanbul courthouse emerged on those social sites last week. The social media platforms were blocked for failing to remove content relating to this crisis since communist militants published photos of Prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz as a hostage with a gun to his head and Marxist–Leninist yellow-starred red flags in the background. Mr. Kiraz was killed in the standoff, according to the autopsy, by militant bullets fired at close range.
The social media blocks are evidence of Turkey’s attempts to censor Internet content before the upcoming June parliamentary elections. Since social media is a prime outlet for Turkish critics to grow their campaigns against the government, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called Twitter a “menace to society” and threatens to “root out” social media from Turkey altogether. As a result, the Istanbul court ordered US companies, as well as Facebook, to take down images, videos, and voice recordings related to the hostage crisis. Access to YouTube and Twitter was restored after those platforms fulfilled the court’s demands. Facebook also complied but is appealing the order and Twitter plans to do the same.
“These broadcast have been shared as propaganda for the armed terrorist organization,” the court stated, adding that their publication “endangered public safety.” Do they really endanger public safety? Or is the Turkish government just afraid of losing power?