World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkey's decision to close down access to Twitter has been one of the main talking points in both national and international news on Friday. However, this is not the first time a country has blocked the social media website or at least contemplated on doing so in times of turbulance.
In August 2011 during the London riots, British Conservative lawmaker Louise Mensch along with Prime Minister David Cameron proposed temporarily closing down the website until the unrest came to an end.
On August 11 of that year, Mensch shared a number of tweets urging for access to the website to be blocked, saying "Common sense. If riot info and fear is spreading by Facebook and Twitter, shut them off for an hour or two, then restore. World won't implode."
She also tweeted "If short, necessary and only used in an emergency, so what. We'd all survive if Twitter shut down for a short while during major riots."
Her tweets came in reaction to comments made by British Prime Minister David Cameron himself, who told the parliament "When people are using social media for violence we need to stop them. So we are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality."
Cameron also added "Police were facing a new circumstance where rioters were using the BlackBerry Messenger service, a closed network, to organise riots. We've got to examine that and work out how to get ahead of them."
During the meeting, Cameron urged social media sites Twitter and Facebook to block images that could spur rioters on, saying "All of them should think about their responsibility and about taking down those images."
"There was an awful lot of hoaxes and false trails made on Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger and the rest of it. We need a major piece of work to make sure that the police have all the technological capabilities they need to hunt down and beat the criminals," he said.
Twitter has also received and responded to many requests from other countries and organizations to delete posts in the past. On January 24, 2013, The Jewish Students Council in France managed to get Twitter to ban certain accounts that were deemed to be anti-Semitic and racist.
Turkey today finds itself in a very similar situation, as political unrest threatens to spiral out of control as the March 30 local elections approach.
The recent death of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan last week, who had been in a coma since being struck in the head by a gas cannister during last summer's Gezi Park riots in Istanbul, has reopened some old wounds after his funeral was followed by a series of violent protests.
The Turkish courts have also appealed to Twitter to close down fake accounts and links that are deemed to be infringements on privacy but Twitter has been reluctant to implement Turkish court decisions, a statement from the country’s Prime Ministry claimed on Thursday.
A number of Turkish citizens, including popular poet Ismet Ozel, had launched lawsuits to have fake accounts attributed to them disabled. The Turkish courts later appealed to the Ministry of Telecommunications to raise the concerns with Twitter, but Twitter did not respond.
"In line with these court orders, the Ministry of Telecommunications initiated necessary proceedings [to have the links removed], but Twitter officials remained indifferent to these demands," the statement said.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Erdogan claimed that Twitter had been reluctant to implement Turkish court decisions - from cases the Prime Ministry says were filed by Turkish citizens - ruling on the removal of specific web links and warned that Turkey could block the site as a last resort to avert what he called the "unjust treatment of Turkish citizens."
“Twitter has to obey Turkish laws just like the way it has to obey in other counties such as the United States and England," said Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek during an address on television.
Twitter must get a legal representative in Turkey and agree to block individual accounts if it is to resolve a row that has led the government to block access to the service, Industry Minister Fikri Isik also said on Friday.
The fact that Turkish president Abdullah Gul expressed his hopes that the ban on Twitter would be over as soon as possible is an indication that the ban is only temporary and will be over once Twitter takes heed to the requests of the Turkish courts.
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