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Twitter restricted in Turkey in aftermath of earthquake

Governmental restrictions on the social media app have been imposed even while rescuers race against time to reach survivors trapped under the rubble.
In this picture taken on September 30, 2020 shows logos of social networking websites displayed on a mobile phone's screen in Istanbul. - Turkey on Wednesday restricted Twitter in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake. (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

The Turkish government imposed restrictions on Twitter on Wednesday, prompting widespread public outcry, where the social media platform has been a major tool in coordinating rescue efforts amid the destruction caused by two earthquakes in southern Turkey earlier this week.

Internet users are having difficulty accessing Twitter in Turkey, as websites that track internet restrictions and bandwidth throttling report that access to the site was restricted. The move comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is visiting the disaster zone, talking to survivors amid a mounting public anger over the government’s response.

Netblocks, a London-based internet tracking website, was the first to report on the restrictions.

“Network data confirm the restriction of Twitter on multiple internet providers in Turkey as of Wednesday," Netblocks said. 


Turkish journalist Cuneyt Ozdemir said the country’s Communications Directorate confirmed the restriction in response to his questions.   

Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay dodged a question over the restriction during a televised interview.

The social media platform has been one of the most useful tools in coordinating rescue efforts. Several people who were trapped under the debris used the app to make their voices heard by the authorities. Other trapped victims bid their farewells to their loved ones through Twitter on Monday night. 

Opposition political figures slammed the move. Main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu described the decision as “insane.” 

“What are you afraid of?” asked Iyi (Good) Party leader Meral Aksener, lamenting the move as “malicious and conscienceless.” 

Ali Babacan, leader of Deva Party, an offshoot of the ruling party, also lashed out at the decision, saying usage of virtual private network (VPN) services would consume smartphones' batteries swiftly.

Several Turkish social media users switched to VPN to maintain anonymity on the public internet. Several VPN providers announced free service to help Turkish users.

By Tuesday 4:00 a.m. Ankara time, Netblocks reported that Twitter access was restored across Turkey.

”The restoration comes after authorities held a meeting with Twitter to ‘remind Twitter of its obligations’ on content takedowns and disinformation,” Netblocks reported. 

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