Officials from the Turkish government are attacking social media again, this time with tax evasion accusations against Twitter. Completely un-Fascist-y threats to reinstate a ban on Twitter, such as “Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic,” have compelled Twitter to send its VP of Global Public Policy, Colin Crowell, to Ankara for talks concerning the legal ramifications of not having a Turkish headquarters. The Twitter delegation met with Turkish government communications officials, as well as President Abdullah Gül, who tweeted that bans on social media are unacceptable. Though tax evasion is cited as the main issue, the accusation is seen as a go-around maneuver for those who would like to see legal action taken against the firm, which can only happen if Twitter has physical offices in the country. Among other accusations, Twitter is being accused of allowing slander against politicians and spreading leaks of alleged corruption in the Erdogan government.
This is the latest in a line of moves and accusations from Turkish officials affiliated with the Justice and Development Party (AKP), who have accused social media sites Twitter and YouTube of being complicit in inciting hatred against the government and spreading lies about Prime Minister Erdogan and his followers. Erdogan considers Twitter and YouTube Turkish society’s “worst menace,” particularly after audio recordings were leaked implicating Erdogan and family members in a corruption scandal. Access to the two sites was then cut just before the AKP received a landslide victory in municipal elections on April 30. The move brought much consternation from Turks, as well as the international community. Access was restored to Twitter by court order on April 3. Government officials said YouTube will continue to be inaccessible, since the recordings are still widely available.
Prime Minister Erdogan vows to fight against Twitter and other social networking sites which refuse to “comply with the constitution, laws, and tax code,” of Turkey. The conflict initially began in the summer of 2013, when Twitter became an integral part of widespread demonstrations for Turks who oppose Erdogan’s policies, many of which some Turks feel are bringing religious policies into what has been a secular government since 1922.
Have you been keeping up with the Turkish government vs. social media battle in the news? What do you think the outcome will be from the Twitter talks in Ankara?