Dominic CarterThe Turkish government banned Twitter following its Prime Minister’s recent threat to “eradicate” the social networking site during a campaign rally in Bursa.  Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cited social media as the cause of the anti-government rhetoric occurring in Turkey.  The ban, and the Turkish government, has received a great deal of backlash from its citizens, the world, and even the country’s own president, who defied the ban by using Twitter to send out a series of messages that questioned and condemned Ankara’s actions.

Within hours of the ban, Turkish Internet users were reporting widespread disruptions to the service.  Simultaneously, the hashtags #TwitterisblockedinTurkey and #DictatorErdogan were trending around the world.  Millions of Twitter users from across Turkey, with a little help from the social networking site itself, found ways around the disruptions to “tweet” their anger at the government’s decision.

The Turkish government, under Prime Minister Erdogan, has already restricted an influx of information from traditional media forms, like newspapers and television news.  In many ways, the Internet was the last place for freedom of information in Turkey.  Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are said to have been extremely effective in mobilizing government opposition and protests in Turkey over the last 18 months, revealing a reason why Erdogan would want to limit citizens’ abilities to use these tools, especially with local elections occurring in the very near future.

The recent ban may also hinder Turkey’s long-held hope of becoming a member of the European Union.  However, even prior to the policy becoming effective, Erdogan asserted that he did not care about the international opinion regarding the ban.

Erdogan’s top priority is to win in the upcoming elections.  His victory, however, hinges mostly on the country’s economy.  While his conservative, religious supporters may not care about the ban, if his misuse of the law dissuades foreign investors who play a vital role in the Turkish economy, the Prime Minister could be facing many obstacles come election time.

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