Twitter fights Turkish order to block newspaper’s Twitter account

Twitter has received a court order from the Turkish government asking the service to block or remove the account belonging to one of the country’s newspapers, known as BirGün Halkin Gazetesi — which means One Day: The People’s Newspaper — but the company has refused to do so and says that it intends to fight the government demand in whatever way it can, including taking the authorities to court.

The court order (PDF link) was posted on Thursday at Chilling Effects, a site where both Twitter and Google post any demands they receive from governments, along with DMCA requests and other similar legal documents. Although sections of the document are redacted or blocked out, if you select the text and copy it, the words underneath become visible.

“It is determined that the Twitter accounts indicated within the annexed writ of the Branch Office of the Fight Against Cybercrimes of Police Department or other social media networks announced that they will broadcast information and documents.”

National security

The order says the public prosecutor’s office “is currently conducting an investigation” into an incident involving trucks owned by the National Intelligence Agency, and that this crime involves a number of suspects and members of criminal organizations who cannot be identified.

A source close to Twitter said the court order was filed after the newspaper published information on its front page that the Turkish government claimed might compromise its investigation or be used in the course of military or political espionage, and then proceeded to tweet links to the story from its official account, which is @Birgun_Gazetesi.

Turkey and Twitter have had a number of previous disagreements over orders to remove or block tweets and accounts. The government blocked the entire service at one point, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an said he would “wipe out” the company because people were using it to share information about a corruption investigation. Erdogan was later forced to remove the block because a court ruled it to be unconstitutional.

Twitter will fight

Based on the court order, Twitter — which has said many times that it is the “free-speech wing of the free-speech party” — said it had removed one of the accounts named in the document and blocked certain tweets from another account, but it intends to fight the order in court because a source close to the company said it wants to “take a harder line” with Turkey. In an unrelated case, a former TV presenter in Turkey faces up to five years in prison for a tweet that the government said suggested a cover-up in the recent corruption investigation.

In a statement emailed to Gigaom, a Twitter spokesman said that some tweets had been blocked using its “country withheld content” tool but the newspaper account remained online:

“We can confirm that yesterday Twitter received a court order demanding we remove an account belonging to a Turkish newspaper and followed by more than 330,000 users, or face blocking in Turkey. Out of the almost 60,000 Tweets on the account, Twitter withheld access in Turkey to the small number of Tweets that discussed the national security issue referenced in the order.”

A Twitter user posted a screenshot of what the newspaper’s Twitter account looks like from within Turkey, and it shows that a number of the tweets have been blocked for users in that country: