The efforts by Turkish authorities to control social networks went a notch higher as the country ordered Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL)’s YouTube, Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) to pull down some controversial images. The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan banned the social networks from allowing access to images of a prosecutor who was recently taken hostage and later succumbed to his injuries.
The affected social networks, YouTube, Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) plan to appeal the order to remove the prosecutor’s images from their sites. However, so far the companies have complied with the order and blocked access to the controversial photos. The companies faced threats of deadlines or being blocked from operating in the country over the images.
Turkey criticized by friends
There is a larger plot to control the Internet in Turkey, with the initiative intensifying in late 2013 following the circulations on social media of tape recordings about political corruption in the country. The move to shut down social media attracted criticism even from Turkey’s friends in Europe like Sweden’s former Prime Minister, Carl Bildt, who is championing for country’s bid to be part of the European Union. Bildt noted that shutting down Twitter Inc (NASDAQ:TWTR), Facebook and Google’s YouTube are damaging moves by Turkish authorities.
However, the presidency said that the order to pull the photos from websites was born out of necessity because the images seemed to promote terrorist propaganda.
Impact on the economy
Continued shutdown of social website over the unwanted images could hurt mobile data revenue for Turkish mobile operators like Turkcell, which provides mobile Internet. Analysts have pointed out that most mobile data usage in Turkey comes from social networks.
The Turkish ruling party last month pushed through a piece of legislation that allows authorities to block websites deemed to be posing threat to the national security without requiring a court order. A similar law flopped last year when the country’s top court declared it unconstitutional, but this year the ruling party, AK Party and the parliament managed to push through the controversial law. The Internet law awaits presidential approval.
Turkey is pushing to join the European Union, but bad laws may end up damaging its reputation.
Twitter Inc (NASDAQ:TWTR) has to deal with censorship across the world on a regular basis, and investors didn’t seem worried by the Turkish outburst. The company’s shares are set to open at $5.84 on Tuesday’s market.