Turkish Official Says Twitter Will Help Remove ‘Malicious Content’


An election poster of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul before last month's local elections. March 2014.

Turkey’s communications minister said on Thursday that Twitter agreed to help the government remove unwanted content from the social media network.

Days before local elections late last month, the Turkish government blocked Twitter and YouTube after users posted audio purporting to be high level Turkish officials — including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — engaging in corrupt activities. While Turkey’s highest court ordered the government to lift the Twitter ban, YouTube is still blocked.

After Twitter executives met with Turkish officials this week, Turkey’s Communications Minister Lütfi Elvan released a statement claiming that they “reached a consensus to ‘neutralize’ malicious content that is the object of court decisions by pixelating.”

While it’s not entirely clear whether this agreement applies to content going forward — Twitter declined to comment when asked by ThinkProgress — Colin Crowell, Twitter’s vice president of global public policy, told the Wall Street Journal that any future decisions on whether to blur content will be made based solely on Twitter’s internal polices or local court orders.

“When we suspend or withhold accounts we do (so) in response to user complaints or court orders—not in response to government requests. Suspensions are for violations of our own rules, and…some of the court orders related to content that violated our own rules,” Crowell said.

“During the meeting, the opening of a liaison office in Turkey to ensure closer coordination, as well as the conferring of authority for ‘super tagging’ to Turkey’s telecommunication directorate [TİB] was discussed. But Twitter executives said they would not immediately decide on these issues and could reconvene after assessing it in a meeting at their headquarters,” Elvan said in the statement, according to Hurriyet.

But Crowell told the New York Times that at this point in time, Twitter has already decided against opening an office in Turkey. “Obviously, turning off our service does not add to the attractiveness of making an investment, and the climate for investment for a company like ours has to include a certain understanding about service continuity,” he said.

Erdogan has called Twitter a “menace to society,” and his administration is apparently looking to use taxation in its next battle with the social media giant. “Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are international companies established for profit,” Erdogan said last weekend, according to the Times. “Twitter is at the same time a tax evader. We will go after it.”