A Turkish court on Wednesday ordered the government to lift its ban on Twitter according to an independent Turkish television news station, which also reported that full access to the social media network will be restored by the end of the day.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the ban after audio tapes of government officials — including Erdogan himself — surfaced on Twitter purporting to show various acts of corruption. The move came just weeks after the Turkish government passed a law allowing it to block access to web pages without a court order and in a wider context of a “crisis” of press freedom in Turkey.
Erdogan allies repeatedly claimed they were forced to shut down Twitter because of reported false smears on various officials and citizens. “This is the most important issue for us. There are insults, swearing and porn about Turkish citizens on Twitter,” one senior member of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) said this week, adding: “Or some European countries can handle some content as a society while Turkey cannot. There is content where photos of women are used in porn through Twitter. Turkish society cannot handle that. It is a matter of perception.”
The Washington Post noted that one expert said Erdogan sought to shore up support for the AKP just before local elections at the end of the month by muddying the waters about Twitter’s credibility in light of the corruption scandal:
“His game is to scare them about all that comes from social media,” [Zeynep] Tufekci, [Turkish sociology professor at the University of North Carolina,] wrote. “He knows they’ll hear of the corruption tapes. But they are now associated with the same source that maligns housewives as porn-stars.” By tainting the source, Tufekci wrote, Erdogan hopes to discredit them and maintain his grip on power.
“The battle is for the hearts and minds of Erdogan’s own supporters, and whether Erdogan can convince them that social media is a dangerous, uncontrolled, filthy place from which nothing good can come,” Tufekci wrote.
The ban was widely criticized and the U.S. mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) announced on Tuesday that it would raise the matter at the OSCE’s Permanent Council session this week.