Twitter suspends more than 7,000 state-linked Turkish accounts

Twitter has suspended 7.340 fake and compromised state-linked accounts in Turkey that were targeting domestic audiences and promoting narratives favorable to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

According to Twitter the “network of accounts was employing coordinated inauthentic activity, which was primarily targeted at domestic audiences within Turkey.”

“Based on our analysis of the network’s technical indicators and account behaviors, the collection of fake and compromised accounts was being used to amplify political narratives favorable to the AK Parti, and demonstrated strong support for President Erdogan,” Twitter stated.

Twitter further declared that the suspended network of accounts are “associated with the youth wing of the [AKP].”

“[T]he network we’re disclosing today includes several compromised accounts associated with organizations critical of President Erdogan and the Turkish Government. These compromised accounts have been repeated targets of account hacking and takeover efforts by the state actors identified above.”

Twitter suspended in total 32,242 state-backed accounts that it has attributed the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Russia, and Turkey. Of those accounts 23,750 belong to China, 1,152 to Russia and 7,340 to Turkey.

The move was in line with Twitter’s principles of transparency vis-a-vis potentially state-backed information operations.

“The account sets we’re publishing to the archive today include three distinct operations that we have attributed to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Russia, and Turkey respectively. Every account and piece of content associated with these operations has been permanently removed from the service,” Twitter said.

Fahrettin Altun, communications director of the Turkish Presidency, found Twitter’s claims to be untrue, stating that “various documents, which Twitter cited to support its decision … are clearly unscientific, utterly biased and politically motivated.”

Altun further accused Twitter of supporting terrorism and threatened to block access to the popular social media platform. “Keeping in mind the most recent controversy surrounding Twitter in the United States, the company’s attempt to portray the Republic of Turkey in a certain political light, its eagerness to support and promote black propaganda by anti-Turkey entities, including the PKK and FETÖ, and its intention to redesign Turkish politics are quite obvious. We would like to remind this company of the eventual fate of a number of organizations that attempted to take similar steps in the past.”

Turkey previously blocked access to such online platforms as YouTube, Twitter and Wikipedia. Access to the Wikipedia was blocked in April 2017 after it refused to remove content linking the Turkish government to terrorist organizations. The access was restored in January with a Constitutional Court ruling.

The ruling party of President Erdoğan is known to employ a horde of Internet trolls, the so-called AK trolls, to intimidate and discredit dissidents, disseminate pro-Erdoğan propaganda and shape public opinion favorable to the Erdoğan regime on social media. A midnight public statement by the notorious Pelican group, a shady yet influential pro-Erdoğan Internet troll group, forced Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s last elected prime minister, to step down after he fell from Erdoğan’s good graces.

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