Access to at least 4,427 URLs consisting of X, formerly Twitter, accounts and tweets were restricted in 2022 in Turkey, Turkish Minute reported, citing a report by Voice of America (VOA) Turkish edition based on data from a report by journalist Ali Safa Korkut from the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).
“Baby, the Bird is Dead: 2022 Twitter Access Bans Report” was drafted as part of the “Enhancing Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey Project,” conducted by the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) with financial support from the European Union.
Published on Free Web Turkey, which monitors and fights against online censorship, the report covers freedom of expression and transparency data for Turkey on X in 2022. The social media platform was purchased by Elon Musk in October 2022, and its name and blue bird logo were changed to X in July.
According to the report at least 487 Twitter accounts and 3,940 tweets were subject to access bans in Turkey as a result of 393 decisions between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2022.
When the distribution of the 3,940 blocked tweets was examined by topic, those discussing public officials took the lead with 2,106 posts. Six of the 17 court decisions that resulted in the banning of access to 2,106 tweets were issued to block critical posts targeting Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism Mehmet Nuri Ersoy.
In the same category, the decision to block the highest number of posts was made for tweets about a police officer serving in the Counterterrorism Unit (TEM) of the Ankara Police Department. A total of 1,973 tweets on allegations that the officer tortured people in custody were blocked by the decision of Ankara 6th Criminal Court of Peace on Dec. 23, 2022. The decision also blocked access to 18 Twitter accounts.
In terms of topics, what followed public officials were tweets claimed to be related to themes such as adult content, gambling, fraud, financial sites and/or terrorism (1,126), targeting individuals (316), discussing public institutions (118), addressing crimes against women and children (117), discussing companies (80) and focusing on individuals and organizations closely associated with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) (77).
In the category of public institutions, 118 tweets were blocked with 20 court decisions, all of which were issued upon the request of the Post and Telegraph Directorate of Turkey (PTT). The tweets in question criticized the services of the PTT, the report said.
According to the report, X did not publish a detailed data table for the year 2022 as it did in previous years and only mentioned that it reviewed its transparency reporting approach in April 2023.
The report emphasized that X received 53,000 legal removal requests worldwide in the first six months of 2022. Based on superficial data showing removal requests worldwide without stating their number, Turkey ranked third among countries making the most content removal requests after Japan and South Korea.
In recent years the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has stepped up its prosecution of journalists, political opponents and others for criticizing the president and the government online or even just for sharing or liking critical articles on social media.
In a move that obstructed search and rescue efforts, the Turkish government restricted Twitter on multiple internet providers following the deadly earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people on Feb. 6 in southern and southeast Turkey.
At the time of the restriction, people including those trapped under the rubble were tweeting their locations to ask for help. In some cases, search and rescue teams were directed to the flattened buildings based on information obtained from Twitter users.
According to a report from the US-based Freedom House in October, Turkey again ranked among the “not free” countries concerning online freedoms.