Turkey Blocks Facebook, Twitter and YouTube over Images of Public Prosecutor Held Hostage

Today, a court in Istanbul ordered the ban of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube over the publication of the picture of a public prosecutor held hostage by extreme-Left militants. The blocking order on Twitter and Facebook was lifted after the social media sites complied with the request of removal. The ban of YouTube is still in place.

The 1st Criminal Court of Peace in Istanbul issued the blocking order against the social media platforms according to a request of the Chief Public Prosecutor of the Terror and Organized Crime Investigation Bureau. The Prosecutor Office demanded that the images of the public prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz held hostage at gunpoint will not be used anywhere on electronic platforms. Mr. Mehmet Selim Kiraz later died of the injuries he suffered during an attempt of the Turkish special forces to rescue him from the kidnappers. Possibly, 166 website may be affected by the court order, including international newspaper websites such as The Independent, The Mirror, and Tgcom24 and major Turkish news channels and newspapers. The decision demanded the removal of the content and ordered the website blocking if the online platforms did not comply with the request. After the initial refusal to remove the content, the leading Turkish Internet Service providers implemented the ban on Twitter and YouTube. 

Facebook complied immediately with the request of removal and was not reached by the implementation of the blocking order. According to a spokesman of the company, Facebook will appeal the decision, despite momentarily complying with the court order.

Later, Twitter complied with the court's request and removed from their platforms the links listed in the court order. Access to the social media platform appears to be restored in Turkey by now. 

At the moment, Turkish authorities still maintain the block on YouTube, although Google is working to restore access to the video sharing platform as soon as possible. However, according to Al Jazeera Turk, Turkish authorities will ban access to the entire Google site and its services unless Google removes for Turkey all search results referring to the images of Mehmet Selim Kiraz's kidnapping by April 6, 11.30 pm GMT. (UPDATE: the ban on Youtube was lifted shortly after that on Twitter, upon removal of the allegedly infringing links, and Google services were finally never disrupted).

Despite the intense social outrage that the killing of a civil servant by a terrorist organization may provoke, banning entire web platforms used by millions of people and accusing them of sharing terrorist propaganda for publishing news including sensitive images does not seem to be the correct answer for a democratic society.

A copy of the court decision is available here (Turkish only). 

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