Turkey’s temporary ban on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube Monday didn’t come out of the blue. In recent years Turkish politicians have passed laws expanding the government’s ability to censor the Internet, and more and more those new laws are being brought into play.
A Turkish court ordered the three social media giants blocked because users were circulating a picture of prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz being threatened by the two Marxist gunmen who took him hostage last week. Mr. Kiraz and the militants were killed in a failed police raid to free him.
Agence France Presse reports that the government lifted the ban on Twitter and Facebook after several hours, following the companies’ promise to remove the offending content. The news agency reported that negotiations with YouTube were ongoing.
Government officials condemned Turkish media for posting the image, which they have called anti-government propaganda. In addition to Twitter and YouTube, the court blocked 166 other websites that had distributed the photograph, according to The New York Times.
“Media groups … publishing these photos are almost doing the propaganda of a terrorist organization,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a news conference Monday. “Continuing to do so despite all warnings and criticisms is unacceptable.”
Turkey has become one of the most aggressive censors of the Internet in the world under President Recap Tayyip Erdogan. Lucy Kafanov reported for The Christian Science Monitor Thursday that his administration’s suppression of information has seen 68,000 websites made inaccessible to average Turkish users, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo among them.