Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a move that attracted international attention on Thursday — much of it on the web.
At a rally in Bursa, Erdogan pledged to do away with Twitter completely, taking the social media platform from the approximately 10 million Turkish users.
“We will eradicate Twitter,” he said. “I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic.”
Shortly thereafter, reports began to surface that Turkish Twitter users were gradually losing access. According to Turkish news site Hurriyet Daily News, the Press Advisory of the Prime Minister clarified on Erdogan’s pledge with a statement which said the following:
“(In Erdoğan’s speech) it is stated that as long as Twitter fails to change its attitude of ignoring court rulings and not doing what is necessary according to the law, technically, there might be no remedy but to block access in order to relief our citizens.”
While Twitter had made no statement publicly about the situation, @Policy, “the voice of Twitter’s global public policy team” (verified account) tweeted instructions for tweeting in Turkey, both in Turkish and in English.
Turkish users: you can send Tweets using SMS. Avea and Vodafone text START to 2444. Turkcell text START to 2555.
— Twitter Public Policy (@Policy) March 20, 2014
Tensions between Erdogan and Twitter had been building for some time. On Feb. 25, the prime minister claimed a “robot lobby” was targeting government through Twitter. He also threatened on March 6 to shut down both Twitter and Facebook in Turkey “if necessary.”