Turkey accounted for more than half of all content removal requests received worldwide by Twitter during the second half of 2016, according to the social media company’s latest transparency report released on March 22.
Requests from Turkish courts, police and government agencies have kept Turkey at the top of the removal applications ranking for three years. Anti-government protesters who in 2013 used social-media platforms to organise first prompted Turkish authorities to greatly tighten their monitoring of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Civil liberties advocates complain that the oversight has gradually evolved into a broad crackdown on dissenting voices.
The Turkish authorities filed 3,076 requests for content removal with Twitter from July-December last year, roughly one-quarter up on the previous six months, the Twitter transparency report says. Twitter opted to withhold “some content” in 19% of cases in the period, which roughly coincided with the massive purge undertaken against tens of thousands of state servants and other citizens in the wake of the failed military coup of July last year.
Worldwide, content deletion requests amounted to just under 6,000, the social media provider added. Governments challenging content deemed illegal in their jurisdiction, anti-discrimination organisations or lawyers representing individuals typically apply for content to be taken down, it said. But for the first time, Twitter’s transparency report looked at data on requests to delete tweets by verified journalist and news outlet accounts. Of 88 approaches in this area, 88 percent came from Turkey.
“Given the concerning global trend of various governments cracking down on press freedom, we want to shine a brighter light on these requests,” Twitter said.
In all during the cited six months, Twitter withheld 15 tweets and 14 accounts in reaction to complaints filed about Turkish journalists or the media. These included gory images of terrorist attacks and content said to have violated a National Security Council decision in the wake of the failed bloody coup that took place in July last year.
Twitter noted: “Whenever possible under Turkish law, Twitter filed legal objections in response to all court orders involving journalists and news outlets, arguing that those decisions may be contrary to protections of freedom of expression. Disappointingly, none of our objections prevailed.”
Twitter added that it has stepped up efforts aimed at ridding its social network of posts from users advocating political or religious violence. It said it was increasingly deploying software to find such tweets rather than relying on user or government alerts.
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