Twitter and Turkey just can’t seem to get along at all these days. After being banned for several weeks and being threatened with tax fraud investigation, the two seem to be finally reaching some common ground.Now, a common statement from Twitter and the Turkish government reveals that they have reached an understanding that was most likely forced onto the social network since it involves censoring user content, something that Twitter hates with a passion.
“We have reached a consensus to ‘neutralize’ malicious content that is the object of court decisions by pixelating,” said Lütfi Elvan, Turkish communications minister.
He didn’t exactly explain what he meant through “pixelating,” although that’s usually a term used to apply a mosaic-like player over the portions that one wants to censor.
He also didn’t expand on what exactly they considered “malicious content,” although the list could include messages featuring links to anti-governmental articles or compromising videos.
The entire situation is ridiculous, but it was clear that Twitter was given an ultimatum – have the entire service banned in Turkey or agree to a bit of local censorship. Even so, the situation is ridiculous and goes against the basic human right of freedom of speech and access to information. By prohibiting users from accessing vital content, the government gains more control over the population.
The decision was apparently made during a series of meetings between the Turkish telecommunication authority (TIB) and Twitter’s execs. The company has reportedly also given people over at the TIB the power to flag posts and accounts that they want censored as soon as possible, after also deleting over 200 tweets deemed as offending.
“During the meeting, the opening of a liaison office in Turkey to ensure closer coordination, as well as the conferring of authority for ‘super tagging’ to Turkey’s telecommunication directorate [TİB] was discussed. But Twitter executives said they would not immediately decide on these issues and could reconvene after assessing it in a meeting at their headquarters,” Elvan said in a statement.
Twitter was blocked for several weeks after the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan promised to wipe out the service. This happened as compromising material featuring government officials appeared online, including on Twitter, just ahead of the local elections.
The Constitutional Court said that the move was violating basic human rights and ordered the government to lift the ban, which it did later that day. Even so, Erdogan said he had no respect for the decision, even if the government did comply.