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By Gerry Shih and Alexei Oreskovic
SAN FRANCISCO, March 21 Twitter Inc
said on Friday it hopes access to its social media service in
Turkey will be restored soon, a day after it was blocked by the
The ban, which has proven to be not entirely effective, is
the latest effort by a government to squash critical comments
that flow freely over Twitter's social network and highlights
the thorny policy challenge facing the company.
Analysts and observers said they were not immediately
concerned that the ban in Turkey could embolden other
governments to follow suit and clamp down on Twitter. But the
company's easy-to-use communications service and its
long-running support of free speech have made it a visible
target for some governments.
While Twitter has earned the ire of other governments,
Turkey's move to ban Twitter is particularly noteworthy, said
Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression
at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"It's a democracy, that's the difference. This is a country
that actually has legitimate elections," said York. "That could
set a dangerous precedent."
"I do think there's a risk democracies could do this," she
added. "I don't think most would go so far as (banning) the
entire site. I think instead what we'll see is more pressure
being put on Twitter to block certain content."
Wall Street remains more focused on Twitter's overall growth
prospects and its budding advertising business, with Twitter's
stock finishing Friday's regular trading session up 1.6 percent
at $50.92 despite the situation in Turkey.
"If it does have any ripple effects, then obviously we would
be concerned, but at this point I think it's isolated," said
Arvind Bhatia of Stern, Agee & Leach.
But he noted that Twitter does have more political risk than
other social media companies such as Facebook Inc.
Twitter is one of the most popular communications channels
in Turkey. Outraged Turkish users took to Twitter on Friday,
mocking the ban by circumventing the restrictions through
virtual private networks and text messages.
A court in Turkey blocked access to Twitter after Prime
Minister Tayyip Erdogan's defiant vow, on the campaign trail on
Thursday ahead of March 30 local elections, to "wipe out" the
social media service, whatever the international community had
to say about it.
The order followed a document posted on Twitter that
purported to be transcripts of phone conversations relating to a
corruption investigation of former cabinet ministers close to
Industry Minister Fikri Isik said talks with Twitter were
taking place and 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
A Twitter spokesman declined to say whether it would appoint
someone in Turkey but said it was moving forward in talks with
Twitter has said it stands with users in Turkey and
published a tweet to Turkish users instructing them on how to
continue tweeting via SMS text message.
The clash with the Turkish government highlighted the broad
policy challenges facing Twitter, which enjoys significant
traction precisely in countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and
Brazil, where restrictive speech laws and the reach of
government censors have conflicted with Twitter's free-speech
Because of its nature as a public, broadcast medium and its
viral network model, where information (or rumors) can spread
exponentially through "retweets," Twitter has been viewed as a
particularly destabilizing force.
The Turkish government had in recent weeks asked Google Inc
to block certain videos on YouTube but the Internet
company has rejected its requests, the Wall Street Journal cited
people familiar with the matter as saying.
YouTube remained online on Friday but some within Google
feared an imminent blackout in the wake of Twitter's ban, the
Journal cited the people as saying.
Twitter was blocked for roughly four years in Iran following
protests during its 2009 presidential election, while David
Cameron, the British Prime Minister, suggested during the London
riots in 2011 that he might block the service, although never
The Turkish ban this week came just days after Chief
Executive Dick Costolo paid his first visit to China, where
Twitter has also been banned since 2009. Twitter downplayed the
likelihood of opening an office in the world's largest Internet
market, but the visit highlighted the tension between Twitter's
values and its business objectives.
(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and