Turkey's President Talks About Banning YouTube and Facebook

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Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan may ban YouTube and Facebook, saying that his political opponents are using the sites to provide false evidence of corruption in his inner circles. Because nothing says "I'm innocent of corruption" like blindly censoring the opposition.

Erdogan, who has been repeatedly accused of suppressing the press, said "We are determined on this subject. We will not leave this nation at the mercy of YouTube and Facebook." He added that the measure could take place following March 30 municipal elections as part of other legislation. "These people or institutions encourage every kind of immorality and espionage for their own ends," the probably-corrupt leader said of the websites. 

The prime minister blames ally-turned-enemy Fethullah Gullen, a Turkish Muslim preacher who lives in the U.S., for posting the "fabricated" wiretaps. Gullen, for his part, says he is not involved. Facebook and YouTube have not yet responded. 

The threat follows a number of leaked anonymous audio recordings revealing private conversations between high-level officials, the latest of which was published to YouTube last night. In it, you can hear a man who sounds like Erdogan pushing the owner of a newspaper to fire journalists over an article the prime minister didn't like. In another tape, Erdogan appears to pressure his justice minister to accelerate a court case against a media magnate for political reasons. Another one plays an alleged conversation between Erdogan and his son over how to hide a lot of money. 

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Other recordings have been scrubbed from the web by the government, according to Reuters

A Turkish official told Reuters that data and logs related to digital recordings from before 2012 had been deleted in the database of Turkey's state telecommunications authority TIB. It was not clear what had happened to the recordings but pro-government media reports said they had been copied and deleted by Gulen's followers. 

Erdogan, who is preparing for key municipal elections on March 30, has banned access to YouTube before, blocking access to the site for more than two years because users posted videos the government found offensive. Just last month, Turkey's parliament passed a law authorizing the country's telecommunications authority to block websites sans a court decision. This year, Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey 154th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index, making it one of the "world's biggest prisons for journalists." We wonder why. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.