* Official says talks with Twitter going positively, one
* US calls Twitter ban anti-democratic
* Many Turks report Internet access problems
(Adds senior government official)
By Daren Butler
ISTANBUL, March 22 Turkey said on Saturday that
Twitter was "biased" and had been used for "systematic
character assassinations" of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's
government, a day after Ankara's ban on the site prompted an
However, a senior Turkish government official later told
Reuters that talks with the social media company on resolving
problems which led to the block were going positively.
The Turkish authorities blocked Twitter late on Thursday,
hours after Erdogan vowed to "wipe out" the social media service
during the campaigning period for local elections on March 30.
Leading condemnation from Western governments and rights
organisations, the White House said the Twitter ban undermined
democracy and free speech in Turkey.
The site remained blocked in Turkey on Saturday. Those
trying to access it found an Internet page carrying court
rulings saying it had been blocked as a "protection measure".
Many Turks reported difficulties in accessing not just
Twitter but the Internet as a whole, according to media reports
and comments on social media.
Erdogan's office said in a statement the ban on Twitter had
come in response to the company's "defiance" in failing to
comply with hundreds of court rulings since last January.
"Twitter has been used as a means to carry out systematic
character assassinations by circulating illegally acquired
recordings, fake and fabricated records of wiretapping," the
prime minister's office said.
In recent weeks, audio recordings have been released via
Twitter on an almost daily basis purporting to be telephone
conversations involving Erdogan, senior government members and
businessmen that reveal alleged corruption.
"It is difficult to comprehend Twitter's indifference and
its biased and prejudiced stance. We believe that this attitude
is damaging to the brand image of the company in question and
creates an unfair and inaccurate impression of our country," the
statement from Erdogan's office said.
Similar measures have been taken on the same grounds in
other countries to prevent violations of personal rights and
threats to national security, the statement added.
Erdogan is battling a corruption scandal which he says is a
plot to undermine him by a U.S.-based Turkish Islamic cleric,
Fethullah Gulen. Gulen is a former ally whose network of
followers include influential members of Turkey's police and
judiciary. Gulen denies orchestrating the graft investigation.
Erdogan's government has responded to the scandal by
tightening controls of the Internet and the courts and
reassigning thousands of police and hundreds of prosecutors and
judges, often demoting them.
The Turkish government began talks with Twitter on Friday,
saying the ban would be lifted if the San Francisco-based firm
appointed a representative in Turkey and agreed to block
specific content when requested by Turkish courts.
"The talks are continuing in Ankara and the process is going
positively. The biggest problem with Twitter until now has been
the lack of contact and that has been resolved," the senior
government official told Reuters.
He said one of the accounts to which Ankara objected had
been closed and talks on others were continuing, but that it was
too early to say when a solution would be reached. Turkish media
reports said the closed account had contained pornographic
material and did not refer to any link to the graft scandal.
"As far as we are concerned, when the court rulings are
implemented the problems will be resolved and the block on
Twitter will be lifted," said the senior official.
The ban stirred concerns that Turkey may pull the plug on
other social media and Internet services, but the government
official said there were no plans to impose restrictions on
other social media like Facebook or YouTube.
Twitter said in a tweet on Friday that it stood with its
users in Turkey who rely on Twitter as a "vital" communications
platform. It said it hoped to have full access returned soon.
Erdogan did not talk mention the Twitter ban at election
campaign rallies on Friday. He was due to address another rally
in the capital Ankara on Saturday.
Many Turks have been able to get around the Twitter ban,
either by using virtual private network (VPN) software or
changing their Domain Name System (DNS) setting, effectively
disguising their computers' geographical whereabouts.
But on Saturday morning, many people reported that computers
that had been set with DNS numbers widely circulated to help
people get around the ban were unable to access the Internet.
"Apparently alternate DNS servers are also blocked in
Turkey. New settings are being circulated," wrote one user.
There was no official comment on whether alternate servers
had been blocked. By early afternoon many on Twitter were
reporting that the alternative DNS settings were working.
(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun in Ankara; Editing by