The Turkish Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) on Tuesday barred access to a popular online debate forum, drawing criticism from journalists and opposition politicians.
Başak Purut, CEO of debate forum Ekşi Sözlük (Sour Dictionary), said on Twitter the BTK had barred access to the website as of 9 p.m. “We have not been able to reach any official at the BTK,” he said. “We don’t know why the BTK made such a move, and we’re trying to reach authorities for more information.”
Ekşi Sözlük was Turkey’s first successful social media platform, founded in February 1999 before Facebook and Twitter. Users on the platform anonymously debate a wide range of political, economic, social and personal issues. The platform attracts 35 million monthly visitors and is among Turkey’s most visited websites.
Journalists criticized the BTK for banning access to the website, saying the platform had been crucial for many people who were searching for their loved ones after massive earthquakes hit southeastern Turkey earlier this month.
Writer Fatih Taşkıran criticized Turkish authorities and said many people had used the platform to call for help and provide relief after the earthquakes, while opposition deputy Muharrem Ince said it was an important space for youngsters to express their political frustrations and criticism.
Many other journalists expressed outrage that the BTK had made such a move without providing any reason or reaching out to website administrators, saying the decision to block access was a serious blow to freedom of expression.
The forum has been the subject of investigation in the past, with the most recent probe taking place in 2021 due to an entry titled “What else should happen for the public to revolt?” According to a statement from the prosecutor’s office, the entry and the comments made below it included expressions that could be considered elements of a crime, and an investigation was launched into the individuals who posted the entry and the subsequent comments.