Turkey accuses Twitter of anti-government campaign

by Maruf Adedeji
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Turkey has faulted Twitter for suspending more than 70,000 accounts that supported President Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish authorities alleged on Friday June 12, 2020, that the social media company was damaging the government’s reputation and trying to alter Turkish politics.

Twitter said it had removed 7,340 profiles traceable to a network detected early in 2020. It claimed those profiles were being used to champion the political campaign for Erdogan’s AK party.

The profiles were among over 32,000 accounts removed by Twitter which it said were used by China, Russia and Turkey for propaganda, to sow misinformation or attack critics.

In response to Twitter’s action, Presidency Communications Director, Fahrettin Altun, said Twitter had shown that it is no mere social media company but a propaganda machine with certain political and idealogical inclinations.

He added that Twitter’s allegation that there were accounts being managed by a central authority with the sole aim of supporting the president was untrue.

He also said the documents used by Twitter were biased, unscientific and politically motivated.

Altun referred to the documents cited by Twitter for its decision as scandalous and said the report was prepared by individuals “peddling their ideological views”.

The remarks indirectly refer to a report by Stanford Internet Observatory known for receiving information from Twitter, as the report claimed the network posted some 37 million tweets to promote the president’s ruling party and criticise Turkey’s main opposition parties.

He later faulted Twitter for its decision, reminding the company of what happened to some organisations involved in similar issues in the past.

Previously, Turkey had blocked access to online encyclopedia Wikipedia, YouTube and Twitter.

Yaman Akdeniz, a cyber rights expert and professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, said removal of the accounts by Twitter was just “the tip of the iceberg” of other questionable activities.

Akdeniz added that the tweets could be from a bot network, which he thought were not very active and suggested further investigation should be initiated.

On Thursday, 11 June 2020, Twitter said it removed more than 170,000 accounts related to Beijing-backed influence operation.

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