Current Twitter CEO Elon Musk defended the platform’s decision to restrict access to some content in Turkey a day ahead of the country’s election.
“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,” the Twitter Global Government Affairs said a day prior to Turkey’s election, scheduled to take place on May 14.
“We have informed the account holders of this action in line with our policy. This content will remain available in the rest of the world,” the account said.
Matthew Yglesias, a columnist for Bloomberg, commented saying, “The Turkish government asked Twitter to censor its opponents right before an election and @elonmusk complied—should generate some interesting Twitter Files reporting.”
In response, Musk wrote: “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?”
One Twitter user responded to the conversation, saying: “You do realize you are limiting the speech of voices in Turkey based on government definitions, right? You know, the entire premise of what you were concerned about when the U.S. govt was doing the same thing in the Twitter Files …”
Robby Starbuck, a Cuban-American who ran in the Republican primary for U.S. House for a seat to represent Tennessee in 2022, weighed in. “[Yglesias] wants you to do nothing and in return Turkish people have ZERO access to twitter when government censors it in response. Real galaxy brain stuff.
“Turkey isn’t the US,” he wrote. “I think most understand you can’t do the same there that you’d do here. Pragmatism = keep as much access to information as you can within the confines of their system of government.”
Voters in Turkey on Sunday will be electing both a president and parliament for a five-year term. They will decide whether to reelect or oust Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He’s been in the position since 2014, and prior to that, served as prime minister from 2003.
To win the presidency, a candidate must get more than 50 percent of ballots cast. Otherwise, there will be a runoff election on May 28 to be held between the two leading candidates, who are Erdogan and opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
Turkish citizens will also be voting for 600 members of parliament.
Erdogan most recently shook hands with Musk at the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Prior to that, the two had a video conference call in December 2021 to talk about electric vehicles and satellites, because SpaceX signed a deal with Turkey that year to launch the country’s first communications satellite.
In February, when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and killed over 50,000 people, the government reduced access to Twitter, as well as TikTok, for a short time.
Human Rights Watch, a New York-based non-profit, said on May 12 that it is “imperative” for online platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and others, to “remain accessible so the public can follow the work of independent election monitors and reporting around the vote count.”
This is because Turkey’s government has a lot of power to control the internet and “impose restrictions such as arbitrarily removing content critical of Erdoğan or the government party,” and has had a history of doing so in the past, including by threatening to “throttle platforms that don’t comply with take-down demands,” the group said.
“Given the sorry state of Turkey’s mainstream media, the integrity of Turkey’s election depends upon it,” it added, referring to how social media platforms should maintain access to content, for everyone. HRW noted that Turkey’s mainstream media is “overwhelmingly aligned with the government.”