Twitter Caved to Censorship Requests From Turkey’s Authoritarian Government
Elon Musk defends suppression of Turkish posts. “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,” Twitter’s Global Government Affairs account tweeted on Friday.
The tweet didn’t say what kind of content had been suppressed nor who had requested this suppression. But if it was done to ensure that Turkish leaders would allow Twitter to remain available, these were probably not posts flattering to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is currently up for reelection. And further comment from CEO Elon Musk suggests content was removed to appease Turkey’s authoritarian leadership.
The move has been widely criticized, especially in light of CEO Elon Musk’s ongoing insistence (despite ample evidence to the contrary) that he is a stalwart champion of free speech.
Turkey is in the midst of a presidential election—one that seems to be headed for a runoff, since Erdogan does not appear to have captured a majority of the vote. (The final results are not in. But as of now, challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu has 44.8 percent of the vote, while Erdogan got 49.54 percent.)
“The Turkish government asked Twitter to censor its opponents right before an election and @elonmusk,” tweeted journalist Matthew Yglesias on Saturday, adding that this “should generate some interesting Twitter Files reporting.” In the Twitter Files, journalists with access to the company’s internal documents detailed censorship requests by the U.S. government and others, and the ways previous Twitter leadership dealt with them.
Musk responded: “Did your brain fall out of your head, Yglesias? The choice is have Twitter throttled in its entirety or limit access to some tweets. Which one do you want?”
But providing people in authoritarian regimes with a false sense of public opinion while doing their leaders’ bidding hardly helps foster civil liberties.
If Erdogan wanted to suppress opposition content and his only way to make that happen was to throttle all of Twitter, it would presumably be a more difficult call. And if he still chose censorship, it would also force him to alert—and often anger—Turkish citizens in the process.
Instead, Musk made a quasi-dictator’s job easier.
Condemnation of Musk’s defense flowed from across the political spectrum.
“If Twitter were throttled in its entirety perhaps Turkish voters would better understand the authoritarian tendencies of their government and the costs it’s imposing on the nation as a whole,” commented conservative journalist Jonah Goldberg. “Throttling the opposition to that govt on election eve doesn’t seem optimal imho.”
“From a speech perspective the answer is clear: You publicly tell Erdogan no and dare him to throttle the whole app,” tweeted Ryan Grim of The Intercept.
It’s not just journalists who have been criticizing Musk:
All or nothing, and let the government face the backlash. If you can’t stand on this basic principle, what can you stand on?
— Just A Guy In Texas (@Just_A_Guy_N_TX) May 13, 2023
We want Twitter to not throttle tweets based on a government’s request it throttle those tweets. If that’s a hard ask Twitter has serious problems.
— Alex Shepard ???????? (@Sinnersaint39) May 13, 2023
You should not censor – ever.
You’re the king of technology. Use it to stop the censorship. Keep twitter open and push to all Turkish users’s phones information on how to log in via VPN and set up Starlink for Turkish dissenters.
With the amount of power and money you have,…
— Martha Bueno (@BuenoForMiami) May 13, 2023
Honestly. Let them turn twitter off. Better to let the censorship writ large on the part of the government be exposed than to let twitter carry on doing the bidding of that government. Then make a
Article from Reason.com