Turkish President Abdullah Gul on Friday tweeted his disagreement with Turkey’s Twitter ban, enacted Thursday by the country’s Internet watchdog after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured) vowed to close down the social media platform which was a vehicle for phone recordings and leaked documents allegedly attesting to government corruption in the lead-up to elections.
“A total shutdown of social media platforms cannot be approved,” Gul tweeted Friday via his own Twitter account.
“As I have said many times in the past, due to the point that communication technologies have reached today it is technically impossible to entirely block access to social media platforms used across the world such as Twitter. I hope this practice will not last long,” protested Turkey’s head of state.
Turkey’s president, whose role is largely ceremonial despite being head of state, bypassed the government ban just like more than a half million other Turkish users who since the shutdown have been tweeting by either sending text messages – following instructions provided by Twitter – or by changing their DNS settings, or via a Virtual Private Network (VPN), prominent Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported.
According to the Hurriyet website the number of messages tweeted by users in Turkey has not dropped since access to Twitter was banned late on Thursday. Meanwhile, the hashtags #TwitterisblockedinTurkey and #TurkeyBlockedTwitter become trending topics worldwide only a few hours after Ergogan announced his intention to “wipe out” Twitter.
Hurriyet cited a report from Twitturk, which records the statistics of Turkish Twitter users, according to which over half a million tweets were posted in just 10 hours, despite the ban, a number which does not mark a significant drop from Turkey’s average number of tweets, which is around 1.8 million per day.
Turkey is one of the top 10 Twitter-using countries worldwide.
Turkey blocked access to Twitter late Thursday, hours after Erdogan railed against the social media platform at a campaign rally, ten days before upcoming elections.
In an official statement on Friday the Turkish Telecommunications Authority said it had taken the measure to protect “private life privacy.”
“Twitter has been blocked as a preventive measure in order to prevent future damage to our citizens as a last resort,” the statement said, adding that Twitter had ignored several Turkish court orders to withdraw online content.
One phone recording that was being tweeted is alleged to be of Erdogan telling his son to remove large sums of cash from his home on the day in December of last year when the homes of three former ministers’ sons were raided in a corruption investigation. Erdogan has repeatedly insisted that the recording is a fake.
Erdogan and Gul have previously clashed over the prime minister’s attempt to quash social media use in Turkey.
Gul is a co-founder of Erdogan’s ruling Islamist-rooted AK Party. As president he can veto laws once and send them back to parliament for further work.
Last month the Turkish parliament passed a law giving the Telecommunications authority more social media gagging powers. That bill was amended after Gul intervened, following a major outburst of protests. But it still gave the communications watchdog the power to shut down Twitter, or at least attempt to do so.