Dozens of social media accounts blocked over postings on referendum frauds

People have protested to the rigged referendum results during a rally in Istanbul on Tuesday.

An Ankara court blocked access to 40 Twitter, 2 Facebook accounts along with 4 websites over their postings on alleged government fraud in the Apr. 16 referendum on Tuesday.

A constitutional amendment that gives more power to Turkey’s already autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was approved by a slight majority on April 16, although debates over alleged voting irregularities have yet to ease. The opposition and international observers say as many as 2.5 million voters could have been “manipulated,” effectively changing the result. Hundreds of “No” voters have taken to the streets since then.

The court accused the implicated social media accounts of “praising terrorism, inciting violence, promoting crime, threatening national security.”

Twitter’s latest government transparency report on March 2017 revealed the extent of the Turkish government crackdown on social media, making the country the leader in Twitter censorship. According to the report, the Turkish government made 493 requests for account information and 2,232 requests to remove accounts or content in the second half of 2016. It marked a 76 percent and 25 percent increase, respectively, from the first half of 2016.

Twitter says it didn’t comply with any of the information requests, and that 19 percent of the removal cases resulted in “some content [being] withheld.”

Over the past few years, Turkey’s regime under Erdoğan has cracked down on free speech and attempted to restrict internet and social media usage. In the second half of last year, according to the transparency report, it led the world in Twitter takedown requests. The second country listed in the report (France or Brazil, depending on the specific metric used) wasn’t even close.

Turkey was also single-handedly accounted 844 out of 894 all court requests worldwide for removal of content on Twitter between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2016. As of the end of 2016, at least 10,000 people were under investigation on committing alleged crime of making terrorist propaganda and insulting senior state officials on social media.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Interior Affairs in December, 3,710 social media users had been investigated in the last six months of 2016, of whom 1,656 were arrested. A total of 1,203 of those investigations resulted in releases on probation.

In the World Press Freedom Day on May 3, Turkey stands out from the crowd by a distant margin by holding a record number of 235 journalists and media workers behind bars, breaking an all time world record. More than half of the journalists who are in prison around the world are now located in Turkey, a member of the Council of Europe (CoE) and a candidate member for the European Union (EU).

Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 235 journalists are now in jails, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 214 are arrested pending trial, Only 21 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons.  An outstanding detention warrants remain for 103 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey. Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the coup attempt. (SCF with May 3, 2017


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