Twitter Restricted in Turkey After Earthquake, Says Internet Monitor
Access to Twitter was restricted in Turkey on Wednesday, according to global internet monitor NetBlocks, following a major earthquake that killed more than 11,500 people in southern Turkey and northern Syria on Monday.
“Real-time network data shows Twitter is restricted in Turkey; the filter is applied to major internet providers and comes as the public relies on the service in the wake of a series of deadly earthquakes,” NetBlocks said in a tweet.
The incident comes as authorities raise concerns about disinformation online, although no formal explanation has been provided, NetBlocks said.
⚠️ Confirmed: Real-time network data shows Twitter is restricted in #Turkey; the filter is applied to major internet providers and comes as the public relies on the service in the wake of a series of deadly earthquakes
📰 Report: https://t.co/CEbfgeBpvz pic.twitter.com/3884wMpYD2
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) February 8, 2023
Users of the platform protested the move as it could hamper ongoing rescue efforts to find people still trapped in the quake zone.
“Why is Twitter restricted on a day when communication saves lives? What kind of awkwardness?” the head of the DEVA opposition party, Ali Babacann said on Twitter.
NetBlocks said that users in Turkey are still able to access Twitter using virtual private networks (VPN).
Twitter CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday evening via the platform Eastern Standard Time: “Twitter has been informed by the Turkish government that access will be reactivated soon.”
Great communication tool
Twitter has been a major means of communication amid the devastation of the earthquake that occurred earlier this week. Turkish residents tweeted information about loved ones they could not reach, reports of collapsed buildings in the area and coordination for help.
Turkey has a longstanding policy of restricting access to social media platforms during national emergencies and security incidents, according to NetBlocks.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned in a speech on Tuesday that he would not allow “disinformation” to spread after the earthquakes and called on citizens not to listen to “provocateurs”.
Turkish police have detained 18 people since Monday’s earthquake over “provocative” social media posts criticizing Erdogan’s government’s handling of the disaster.
Local residents watch as a crane sifts through the debris of an eight-story building that collapsed after the second of two earthquakes in Adana province, Turkey, on February 6, 2023. (Ercan Koc for The Epoch Times)
The Twitter outage came as Erdogan began a tour of the region in question.
In October, Turkey passed a law proposed by the AK Party that jails journalists and social media users for up to three years for spreading “disinformation”, raising deep concerns about free speech.
Critics said there is no clear definition of “false or misleading information”, leaving the law open to abuse by courts that are not independent. The government denies claims that courts have silenced open dissent and opponents in recent years.
The government says the new law aims to regulate online publications, protect the country and combat disinformation.
Reuters contributed to this report.