Turkey’s ban on Twitter has come to an end.
The country’s highest court has ruled that the ban was “illegal, arbitrary and a serious restriction on the right to obtain information.” Access to the service is set to resume this morning as Turkish government officials confirm they will comply with the ruling and lift the ban.
Just minutes after the announcement, Twitter started to light up with tweets from Turkish citizens once again:
— Sirish Narismulu (@SirishN91) April 3, 2014
We are encouraged by the news from Turkey today and welcome our Turkish users back to Twitter.
— Policy (@policy) April 3, 2014
The popular social media destination was blocked in Turkey on March 20, when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan found the service was being used to spread allegations about widespread corruption in his government. The matter was of particular importance to Erdoğan as local elections were just a week away.
When Twitter refused to remove any tweets the Turkish government found offensive, Erdoğan threatened to “wipe out Twitter” (and other things too…); and in-part he succeeded.
However, the ban was largely ineffective, and served only to reduce the number of users on Twitter. Users could still send tweets via SMS, or by making a simple change to their DNS settings. Over 1 million tweets per day were still sent from Turkey during the ban, according to social media monitoring company Sysomos.
It seems Erdoğan got exactly what he wanted, though. His political party, the Justice and Development Party, won the Turkish local elections with a strong majority, despite the major public outcry about his authoritarian tactics.
A week after Twitter was banned, the government also blocked access to YouTube after a recording that supposedly showed a secret government security meeting discussing military intervention in Syria allegedly leaked on to the service.
The current court ruling applies only to Twitter, so YouTube remains blocked. A fresh petition to unblock YouTube led by Turkish law professor Yaman Akdeniz is being prepared; however, it remains to be seen whether that petition can be successful. Especially as the Turkish government continues to enact laws that consolidate its power.
This isn’t the first time YouTube has been banned in Turkey. It was blocked for three years, from 2007 to 2010 because the site hosted videos which painted Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in a negative light.
Here is one of those videos:
This morning, another court ruled that the ban on YouTube is to be lifted. The ruling is similar to the one that overturns the Twitter ban, with 15 undisclosed videos are expected to remain blocked in Turkey, according to reports. However, it remains to be seen whether the government will comply with the ruling. An administrative court had ordered Twitter to be unblocked over a week ago, but their ruling went ignored by Turkish government officials.
Prime Minister Erdoğan has also spoken out against the court’s overturning the Twitter ban.
“I don’t find it right and patriotic that the Constitutional Court has adopted such a decision,” Erdoğan said, explaining why he does not personally agree with the decision, according to a translation by Turkish news website Hurriyet. “While they are protecting an American company, our national and moral values are being disregarded.”