Turkey threatens to ban Twitter (again)

Turkey-based Twitter users could soon be staring at blank screens again after the government threatened to block the social media service for the second time in less than a year.

The threat came late last week after a Turkish court banned media coverage of a police raid on Turkish Intelligence Agency trucks, citing national security concerns. Prior to the ban, Turkish news outlet BirGun had tweeted images of documents that allegedly showed the convoy had been carrying weapons destined for extremists fighting against the forces of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. The government claims the convoy was in fact delivering aid to Syria’s Turkmen minority.

After learning that BirGun had continued to tweet related content following the court order, government officials demanded Twitter take down the account of the news outlet or face being blocked in the country, the New York Times reported.

Related: Twitter sues U.S. government over state surveillance rules

Twitter responded by removing particular messages posted by BirGun – primarily those showing images of the leaked documents – though it declined to take down the account, deeming such action to be a step too far.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the news organisation continued to post new messages relating to the raid on the trucks, with other Twitter users sympathetic to the media organisation’s stance retweeting the messages.

Twitter spokesperson Nu Wexler said that of nearly 60,000 tweets on the account, “Twitter withheld access in Turkey to the small number of tweets that discussed the national security issue.”

Wexler added that the U.S. company would “continue to work diligently to protect the rights of our users and preserve access for millions of Twitter users in Turkey.”

Wouldn’t be the first time….

The Turkish authorities can evidently get a bit anxious when it comes to social media services, especially Twitter. In March last year the government blocked the site after a number of users posted content claiming to expose alleged corruption among the then prime minister’s close associates, though the ruling party described it as a smear campaign by political opponents.

Twitter resumed normal service in the country about two weeks later, though during its time offline tech-savvy users had spread the word on workarounds, meaning that for many the ban was largely ineffective.