Ahead of Türkiye’s upcoming election, Twitter suspended access on Sunday to some forms of election-related content. The news came hours ahead of the results of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s most recent presidential campaign, which some commentators believe will mark the end of Erdoğan’s 20 years in power.
Twitter Global Government Affairs, an official account representing Twitter, explained the move, stating, “In response to legal process and to ensure Twitter remains available to the people of Turkey, we have taken action to restrict access to some content in Turkey today.” Twitter continued, “We have informed the account holders of this action in line with our policy. This content will remain available in the rest of the world.”
International response to Twitter’s announcement has been focused on issues of free speech and censorship on the social media platform. Matthew Yglesias, a columnist for Bloomberg, challenged the move, arguing that, “The Turkish government asked Twitter to censor its opponents right before an election and @elonmusk complied — should generate some interesting Twitter Files reporting.”
Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” replied, asking, “The choice is have Twitter throttled in its entirety or limit access to some tweets. Which one do you want?” Musk then tweeted, “We could post what the government in Turkey sent us. Will do.”
On Friday, Suleyman Soylu, Türkiye’s Interior Minister, suggested such a move was warranted due to Western involvement and conjecture in Türkiye’s national elections. Soylu criticized what he described as a “Western media campaign” lead by the US, in an attempt to “rig” the upcoming elections. He argued:
Everyone knows that the United States seeks to carry out a coup in this country every ten years…I am one of the people most vulnerable to attacks and insults through foreign social media accounts. The United States is interfering in these elections.
Twitter has not made publicly available which information has been affected by this restriction on access. This is the second time this year that the use of Twitter has been limited for users based in Türkiye. In February, the government briefly blocked access to Twitter and other social media platforms in the wake of a devastating earthquake which killed almost 50,000 people.
It is unclear when the Twitter restriction will be lifted.