Twitter objects to Turkish court orders requesting ban on some accounts

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Twitter said it had filed objections to Turkish court orders requesting a ban on access to some accounts and tweets on the platform, after keeping its service available during an election weekend despite warnings from authorities in Ankara.

On Saturday, a day before the presidential and parliamentary elections, Twitter said it had restricted access to some content in Turkey in order to keep the platform available to users there.

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The court orders, which were shared by Twitter, requested the access bans on the grounds that they posed a threat to public order and national security.

“We received what we believed to be a final threat to throttle the service - after several such warnings,” Twitter said in a statement late on Monday.

“So in order to keep Twitter available over the election weekend, we took action on four accounts and 409 Tweets identified by court order.”

Twitter said five court orders had been issued against it regarding these actions and it had already objected to four of them.

“While one of our objections has been rejected, three of them are still under review. We are filing our objections to the fifth order tomorrow,” it added.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led comfortably after the first round of the presidential election. His rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu faces an uphill struggle to prevent Erdogan extending his rule into a third decade in a runoff vote on May 28.

Freedom of expression

Yaman Akdeniz, a cyber-rights expert at Istanbul Bilgi University, said that before its purchase by Elon Musk, Twitter had refused demands to block the accounts of verified journalists or news outlets

“However, we are now witnessing a more obedient and government-friendly Twitter willing to withhold accounts and tweets to comply with local Turkish law. In the absence of due process, that is a dangerous game to play and sets a low precedent for protecting freedom of expression on Twitter.”

Last year, Turkey introduced a law requiring social media companies to remove “disinformation” content and to share user data with authorities if they post content deemed to be criminal, including misleading information.

Social media companies are required to appoint Turkish representatives and they face bandwidth being throttled by up to 90 percent immediately after a court order should the representative fail to provide information to the authorities.

Activists and opposition figures say the law could tighten the government’s grip on social media, one of the last bastions of dissent in Turkey after Erdogan’s 20 years in power.

Erdogan and his ruling AK Party deny muzzling free speech.

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