Outrage broke out across the globe Friday, March 20 when “#TwitterisblockedinTurkey” began trending. Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan vowed to “wipe out” Twitter regardless of the international community’s viewpoint on the matter. Based on the trending hashtag, this was no empty threat.
Erdogan has dominated Turkish politics for the last 11 years and has been involved in an ongoing corruption scandal that has been fed by social media. It would make sense as to why Erdogan feels as though Twitter is a threat. Although there is an explanation, there is hardly any justification for such action.
Turkey currently has one of the highest levels of active Twitter users in the world. It is currently ranked eighth in active Twitter users worldwide, according to a study conducted by PeerReach in 2013.
Many people who live in Turkey use Twitter as a dominant form of communication. So much so that in 2012 researchers Nur Uysal, Jared Schroeder and Taylor Maureen even conducted an academic study on the subject with a project titled, “Social Media and Soft Power: Positioning Turkey’s Image on Twitter.” The study found Turkey was using Twitter as a public relations strategy to reposition itself in the international community as a European, progressive, democratic, secular and Muslim nation that has the potential to influence nations in the Middle East.
Clearly, it is quite the opposite now.
According to a Reuter’s article by Nick Tattersall, the ban may be lifted if Twitter appoints a representative in Turkey and agrees to block specific content when requested by Turkish courts. A decision has not yet been made.
Despite the block, many tech-savvy Turks have found ways around the block. By using third party websites, such as HootSuite, many have still been able to use Twitter despite the ban.
Although the response to end the ban has been overall positive across the globe and there is work to end the Turkey Twitter blackout, it poses the question of who could be next. What can we as communication and public relations practitioners do to prepare for situations such as these? What would you do if you were working in Turkey and needed to get your message out to those stakeholders you typically communicate with via Twitter?