The company explained its decision to take action against accounts and tweets at Ankara’s request.
Twitter has published written instructions it received from the Turkish government to ban certain users ahead of the country’s elections last weekend, claiming it had raised “concerns about freedom of expression” but complied with the orders to avoid a nationwide blackout in Türkiye.
The platform’s Global Government Affairs account issued a statement on Monday outlining its recent decisions in light of the Turkish court orders, saying it was forced to take action against four accounts and 409 individual tweets.
“We received what we believed to be a final threat to throttle the service – after several such warnings,” it said, adding that it deleted the accounts and posts “in order to keep Twitter available over the election weekend.”
While Twitter noted that it would continue to fight the orders in court and has “communicated our concerns about freedom of expression directly” to officials, it said it was unable to take further legal action before voting started on Sunday.
The company went on to publish the court orders, as well as correspondence from Turkish regulators, sharing 15 documents which appear to contain lists of particular users and tweets the government wished to be deleted or blocked. Scores of accounts are named in the files, as are links to a number of Facebook profiles and YouTube channels. Twitter did not specify which accounts or posts it took action against.
Included on the government’s list are journalist and YouTuber Cevheri Guven, who boasts more than 583,000 followers, as well as Kurdish businessman Muhammed Yakut, a frequent critic of the ruling AKP party. Both of their accounts remain accessible.
In response to recent criticism over the platform’s compliance with Turkish government demands, Twitter boss Elon Musk explained that his company faced a choice to either “have Twitter throttled in its entirety” in Türkiye, “or limit access to some tweets.”
— Twitter Global Government Affairs (@GlobalAffairs) May 15, 2023
“This is par for the course for all Internet companies – we are just going to be clear that it’s happening, unlike the others,” Musk later said, also vowing to “post what the government in Turkey sent us.”
In its latest statement, Twitter said that five court orders had been issued against the platform to date, adding that it has “already objected to four of them” in Turkish courts. While one of those petitions has been rejected, it said it plans on filing a challenge to the fifth order on Tuesday.