Twitter ban in Turkey – a futile exercise?

Social media ban
Would an internet ban truly work?
A week ago Twitter became Turkey’s public enemy number one. Prime Minister Erdogan decided that ‘Turkey will not bow’ to the pressure from social media and blocked Twitter throughout the country, where the social media platform has 11 million active users. The veto proved to be short-lived as people found ways around it and began using social media to actively criticise the ban itself. So is it possible to put a ban on expression and interaction?

The ban was announced early in the evening of March 21, during the PM’s election rally. Avid social media users denounced the ban as an attack on freedom of speech as well as democracy. Only a few hours later, Twitter went down and citizens were already taking take their frustration to Facebook.

However, by midnight, Twitter users worked out how to get around the ban and use the social network as before. The hashtag #twitterisblockedinturkey began to trend and in a matter of hours people around the world began describing the ban as the modern equivalent of book burning.

To make matters worse, a couple of days ago a block on YouTube was also imposed. The new ban follows a leaked conversation during which Government officials discussed the possibility of going to war with Syria.

However, the real reasons behind these bans lie in the agitated pre-election political landscape.

Unfortunately for Government officials and Turkey’s country’s PM, these bans seem to have had the opposite effect from the one intended. People are more determined than ever to speak their mind and find new and creative ways of getting around the blocks.

Disapproving political voices from around the world have joined together to criticise Turkey’s decisions. "This is another desperate and depressing move in Turkey," said European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes while deputy state department spokeswoman Marie Harf added that Turkey “has to stop doing this”.

Big social media outlets are like nations themselves, with their own rules, culture and a fan base that is much more patriotic and outspoken than your average citizen of a geo-political state. Furthermore, they are nations in which credibility is entirely earned and what you say matters much more than where you come from.

And there is definitely a thing or two Governments and officials could learn from the global success of networks such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Being inclusive and allowing everyone to voice their opinions makes you more popular than banning people from doing so. And chances are you possess a higher level of credibility and ability to persuade if people are free and approach you and without limitations. Just a thought.

Do you believe that a ban on any social media or blogging outlet is truly possible? Can one person or one nation really stop individuals from speaking their mind and expressing their views online? Is it even worth trying?

Richard Stone

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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