Turkish Court Overrules the Government's Twitter Ban

A Turkish court ordered the country to lift its ban on Twitter on Wednesday. 

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A Turkish court ordered the country to lift its blanket ban on Twitter on Wednesday. The ban, imposed late last week, exists for a couple of different reasons, depending on who you ask.

According to the Turkish government, the ban was necessary after Twitter refused to remove objectionable content from its site. But it probably has to do more with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan's simmering disapproval of social networking sites; he has previously promised to "wipe out" the service from his country. That disapproval was likely only exacerbated by the recent leak of an audio recording, posted to Twitter, allegedly of Erdoğan discussing government wrongdoing. With elections fast approaching, the recording has complicated Erdoğan's campaigning efforts.

The Turkey Bar Association challenged the government ban on Monday, calling it an "arbitrary decision." And on Wednesday, a court in Ankara agreed with them. They ordered TIB, Turkey's telecoms authority, to lift the ban. According to Reuters, the country's deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc has asked the TIB to abide by the court order. He said after learning of the decision:

"We abide by the court rulings, that's what the constitution orders. We may not like them, but we abide by them. If this decision is genuine ... then what TIB needs to do after this is obvious." 

TIB can appeal the ruling, but that wouldn't necessarily delay the court order, Reuters adds. The ban should vanish, at least for now, once the court officially informs TIB of its decision.

Even if TIB appeals, today's ruling is hardly the only effort to stop the ban. Twitter addressed its own efforts to fight the legal basis for the Turkish ban on Wednesday: four requests from Turkish courts and officials asking the site to remove content. Twitter says that they received exactly zero of those requests before the ban went into effect, and that two of the requests pertain to content that was already removed for a violation of the site's terms of use. In a statement, the site explained: 

The purported legal basis for the ban is three court orders (none of which were provided to us prior to the ban) and a public prosecutor’s request. Two of the three court orders relate to content that violated our own Rules and is already suspended. The last order instructed us to take down an account accusing a former minister of corruption. This order causes us concern. Political speech is among the most important speech, especially when it concerns possible government corruption. That’s why today we have also petitioned the Turkish court on behalf of our users to reverse this order.

The court order is great news for Turkish Twitter users, many of whom managed to find ways around the country's ban in the days since it went into effect. Turkish Twitter users managed to use the site in record numbers, even after the country strengthened the methods used to enforce it, though obviously they would prefer not to work around the censorship.

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