Twitter Begins Censoring Content Ahead of National Elections

Twitter announced that it will limit what can be said in Turkey in the days leading up to Sunday’s elections.

“In response to legal process and to ensure Twitter remains available to the people of Turkey, we have taken action to restrict access to some content in Turkey today. We have informed the account holders of this action in line with our policy. This content will remain available in the rest of the world,” Twitter’s office of global government affairs posted.

Sunday’s elections are considered a challenge for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to CNN. His main challenger is Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party.

Under Turkish rules, the winner must receive more than 50 percent of the votes. If no one gets a majority a runoff between the two top vote getters takes place. If necessary, that vote would be held May 28.

Before Twitter’s announcement, Human Rights Watch had said it feared Turkey would take control of social media in the country.

“The Turkish government has accelerated its efforts to enforce censorship and tighten control over social media and independent online news sites ahead of this election,” Deborah Brown, senior technology researcher at Human Rights Watch, said.

“The vote will test whether voters in Turkey can rely on social media for independent news and to express their views on the election and its outcome, despite government efforts to put companies under its heel.”

“Social media companies may face intense pressure to remove content the government views unfavorably, including assessments from independent monitors,”  Sarah Clarke, director of ARTICLE 19 Europe, said.

“It is crucial for companies to resist these pressures and do everything in their power to push back against measures that would make them complicit in rights abuses during this critical election period,” she said.

A report in The New York Times said public opinion polls show Erdogan trailing his challenger, despite using all the levers of power to bolster his standing with voters.

“The elections are not fair, but nonetheless they are free, and that is why there is always the prospect of political change in Turkey. The prospect exists, and is now palpable,” Sinan Ulgen, director of the Istanbul-based EDAM research group, said.

Although some reports have claimed Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey for 20 years, would not step aside if the vote goes against him, he has downplayed that notion.

“If our nation decides to make such a different decision, we will do exactly what’s required by democracy,” he said.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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