The Turkish regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has long been hostile towards Twitter. Erdoğan himself once even described it as “the worst menace to society”. So, it comes as no surprise that when it comes to trying to censor Twitter, Turkey has once again the been the worst offender during the last six months of 2017.
According to the latest transparency report released by Twitter, which covers the second half of 2017, Turkey was responsible for the vast majority of attempts to remove content from Twitter.
This is the second successive report that Turkey has topped the Twitter censorship tables, and it is no coincidence that this spike has come in the wake of a failed coup which was trying to oust the incumbent governing regime.
Turkey’s Twitter censorship in numbers
Over the six month period covered by the report, Twitter received a total of 513 court-ordered requests to remove content from the site. An enormous 466 of those requests came from the Turkish regime. To put that into some sort of context, only one other country’s requests made it into even double figures (Brazil with 12).
In addition, Twitter also received a total of 6,138 non-court ordered legal requests to remove content. Turkey was also responsible for 3,828 of those too.
It is clear that Turkey’s efforts to censor Twitter were not legitimate when we look at the number of their requests that were successful. Just 3% of the legal demands for removal of content saw Twitter take things down. This suggests that the motivation behind Turkey’s requests are less national security and counter-terrorism and more political opportunism.
Turkey’s legal requests specified a total of 6,544 Twitter accounts which they wanted either removed in full or some of the content they contained removed. However, of those requests, Twitter deleted just 148 accounts and a total of 322 individual tweets.
It is little wonder that the Erdoğan regime remains so hostile towards Twitter given the sites unwillingness to cooperate with their political repression.
Twitter also confirmed in the report that they have pushed back strongly against Turkey’s censorship efforts. They filed no fewer than 125 objections to Turkish court orders, mostly on the grounds that the orders violated freedom of expression.
The consequences of the coup
Ever since Erdoğan succeeded in putting down a coup attempt against his rule last year, his clampdown on individual freedoms has been huge. And online freedom has suffered significantly as a result, with social media sites being particularly targeted.
At the height of the coup, Turkey blocked access to a number of social media sites and shortly afterwards a number of other online services which were thought to have been used by anti-Government groups, including cloud storage services were also blocked.
As the Erdoğan began to tighten its grip once again, internet access was cut altogether in some cities in the mainly Kurdish east of the country, while there were also efforts to block TOR and VPN services to try and stop people being anonymous online.
Other sites such as Wikipedia and ProtonMail have also been blocked while there have also been plans put forward to launch a state-controlled rival to WhatsApp, which would allow the regime to monitor messages being sent by users in Turkey.
It is reported by activists that since the coup took place last summer, the Turkish government has investigated more than 39,000 social media users with more than a thousand of those being arrested in 2017.
Many more have been investigated and charged with the newly created charges of insulting Turkish President Erdoğan or other senior regime leaders. In 2016, almost 5,000 such charges were brought against Turkish citizens, with 1,080 of those being convicted.
Use a VPN to use Twitter freely in Turkey
The clampdown in Turkey is obviously intended to help secure the Erdoğan regime’s grip on power and quell any form of opposition to it. But many people are still continuing to express their views online, with social media sites like Twitter still popular across Turkey.
But with the threats now hanging over them for doing this, many have turned to a VPN. While Turkey has tried to block access to VPNs, many still remain accessible and they offer the level of security and anonymity many Turks feel they need to be able to speak out against the regime currently controlling the country.
If you want to protect yourself against the online crackdown that continues in Turkey, take a look at our Best VPN for Turkey Censorship article to find out which providers will work best for you.