Twitter Turkey Tussle: 11 Facts about Twitter’s Turkey Elections Censorship

On Friday, May 12, 2023, Twitter announced that it would limit access to some tweets and accounts in Turkey. Twitter’s Turkey elections censorship sparked controversy and criticism from some observers who accused Twitter CEO Elon Musk of censoring Erdogan’s opponents and betraying his free speech principles. Turkey’s presidential election saw an unprecedented runoff on May 28, 2023.

The victor? None other than Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the man who’s been at the helm for two decades and counting. This political saga is a rollercoaster ride of earthquakes, economic crises, censorship, and an opponent who, according to Erdogan, couldn’t herd sheep. Here are the facts.

An Un-Tweetable Friday the 12th

Under Elon Musk’s command, Twitter dropped a bombshell on Friday, May 12, 2023. The social media giant announced it would limit access to some tweets and accounts in Turkey. Twitter’s remained vague about details as a cryptic tweet. The reasoning? Compliance with the legal process and a bid to keep the bird chirping in Turkey.

Turkey Elections: Round 1

Twitter's Turkey Elections Censorship. Erdogan on election day
Twitter’s Turkey Elections Censorship. Erdogan on election day. Screenshot: Channel 4 News

This content restriction didn’t come out of the blue but right before Turkey’s presidential election, set for Sunday, May 14, 2023. The race was neck-and-neck, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan facing a nail-biter against opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

Twitter or Twit-err? The Question of Censorship

Critics were quick to accuse Musk of censoring Erdogan’s opponents and betraying his free speech principles. They called Musk a “free speech opportunist.” Musk, never one to shy away from controversy, had a spirited retort for his critics, asking if Musk’s critics had fallen out of their heads. After all, he argued, the alternative was Twitter being throttled or blocked entirely in Turkey.

Wikipedia Founder: Not a Fan of Musk’s Turkey Move

Elon Musk
Elon Musk. Screenshot: Inner Vision – YouTube

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, a noted fan of freedom of expression, slammed Musk for seemingly succumbing to censorship. He pointed out that Wikipedia had stood its ground in Turkey’s Supreme Court, emerging victorious in its fight for freedom of expression.

The Power Struggle: Erdogan vs Kilicdaroglu

The presidential election turned out to be a tight race between Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu. Erdogan, in power for 20 years, has faced criticism for his authoritarian tendencies and handling of the economy and natural disasters. Kilicdaroglu, the opposition leader, represented a coalition of six parties promising change and economic reform. With neither candidate securing the vote, both were preparing for a runoff on May 28.

The Twitter Twist: A Turkish Law Question

Twitter Covid
Image: using Dall-E

Twitter’s recent actions revolve around Turkey’s internet law from 2020. This law requires social media platforms with more than 1 million users to establish a legal entity in Turkey. It also requires them to store Turkish users’ data in the country. The law gives Turkish authorities the power to remove or block content deemed offensive or harmful.

Twitter initially resisted the law. However, it announced in March 2023 that it would form a legal entity in Turkey to continue operating there. The specifics of Twitter’s requests or court orders from the Turkish government remain as mysterious as Musk’s next tweet.

A Victory for the History Books

Erdogan’s May 28, 2023, victory wasn’t just a win; it was a political marathon. With 52.1% of the votes, he swayed past his opponent, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who trailed behind with 47.9% in the second round of the Turkey elections.

When the Earth Shakes, Erdogan Doesn’t Stir

Gaziantep Castle
Screenshot: Ihlas News Agency – YouTube

Erdogan’s government faced criticism for its response to February 2023’s powerful earthquakes that claimed over 50,000 lives. But like a seasoned surfer riding a seismic wave, Erdogan managed to stay afloat amidst the crisis. His secret? A fierce campaign that included meeting with earthquake victims and unleashing billions of dollars in government spending to insulate voters from Turkey’s double-digit inflation.

The Cost of Living and Victory Price

Critics might argue that Erdogan’s victory in the 2023 Turkey elections was marked by his use of state resources and media sway, making the competition unfair. A painful cost-of-living crisis has marked Erdogan’s rule. But despite the economic tremors, his victory means continuing his populist politics.

Celebrations, Acknowledgments, and a Potential Recession

Erdogan’s victory sparked celebrations across many Turkish cities. International leaders from Pakistan, Hungary, Qatar, the US, Russia, the UK, France, Brazil, and Egypt acknowledged the win. But amidst the applause and accolades, Erdogan’s biggest challenge could be his economy. With inflation peaking at over 80% last year and the central bank’s foreign currency reserves depleting, Turkey could soon face a currency crisis or recession.

Take the Turkey Quiz

Now that you know all the facts about Twitter’s Turkey Elections Censorship, how about a news quiz?

Turkey Mini Quiz

Country Quiz: 6 Multiple-choice general knowledge questions about Erdogan’s Turkey. No time-limit. How smart are you today?

1 / 6

1. What did Twitter do in Turkey before the presidential election?

Screenshot: Channel 4 News – YouTube

2 / 6

2. Who built the main building of Gaziantep Castle in Turkey?

Photo: Mxcil, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

3 / 6

3. In 2020, Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has called for a boycott of French goods. How did he explain this?

Photo: U.S. Embassy in Turkey, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

4 / 6

4. Turkish presidential communications director didn’t like this Charlie Hebdo cover, satirizing Turkish President Erdogan. What did he say about it?

Image: Charlie Hebdo cover
Erdogan Charlie Hebdo

5 / 6

5. In a video for a government-organized communications conference in Istanbul in Dec. 2021, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described social media as a threat to what?

Screenshot: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on YouTube

6 / 6

6. The US is the largest NATO member by population. Which country is the second-largest?

Image: JayCoop (derivative), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Challenge your friends to see if any of them can do any better!

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We source our trivia facts from the web’s finest news outlets. Here are the articles we read to conceive our facts about Twitter’s Turkey Elections Censorship and the election result.