A Turkish court order has again blocked major social media tools today, citing publication of images from last week’s attack on an Istanbul courthouse DHKP-C. Access to facebook, twitter, and youtube have reportedly been blocked throughout the country.
The current ban follows in a long, unseemly history of Turkish efforts to control social media. In March, 2014, Turkish authorities also banned social media outlets. Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey said at the time:
The Turkish government appears to be itching for pretexts to close down websites because of their capacity to mobilize dissenting opinion and broadcast embarrassing material… Even if the Turkish authorities have legitimate concerns about some of the content that might appear, it is completely disproportionate to enforce a blanket YouTube ban in the entire country. Access to YouTube must be restored immediately and the authorities must stop blocking sites that expose abuses and provide a platform for dissenting views.
What was true then is no less true today. Yet these bans are only the most blunt weapon that Turkey is employing against free expression on social media: the ban comes in the context of scores of prosecutions under loosely worded anti-terror and anti-defamation statutes which have targeted and punished critical voices on social media.
As I wrote in the wake of the 2014 social media bans:
Clearly, these bans are an unacceptable restriction on freedom of expression. Just as clearly, however, they are part of what Amnesty has described as “a wider pre-meditated crackdown on freedom of expression.”
Internet restrictions are an important part of the problem, but they are only the most obvious example of a larger attack on dissent.
St. Lawrence University