How alleged social media leaks are shaping politics in Ukraine and Turkey


This file photo taken on March 6, 2014 shows Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of Ukraine's Batkivshchyna Party, addressing the media during a news conference at the European People's Party (EPP) Congress at the Dublin Convention Centre in Dublin.(Peter MuhlyAFP/Getty Images)

In Turkey, critics say Prime Minister Recep Tayyup Erdogan engineered a possibly illegal Twitter ban in an attempt to quiet or discredit leaks that allege political corruption in his party. In Ukraine, some prominent officials and political figures have blamed Russia for a series of leaked audio recordings posted to Youtube.

Erdogan's party, the Islamist AK Party, has dominated Turkish politics since 2002. Late last year, a corruption scandal erupted within the party --  leading to high profile arrests and leaks of conversations that allegedly could implicate Erdogan. The audio recordings appear to be of private telephone calls or conversations, although their authenticity is unclear. They both quickly spread across Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube.

Hours after Erdogan declared on Thursday that he would wipe out Twitter in the country, a poorly enforced ban went into effect. The ban strengthened over the course of the weekend, but now a Turkish court has given the government 30 days to lift it.

At least one of the court cases cited by the Turkish telecommunications agency responsible for  implementing the ban was aimed at limiting a Twitter account and blog sharing information about the alleged leaks and corruption within Erdogan's party -- and he has since threatened YouTube and Facebook with similar actions.

In Ukraine, government officials have been waging their own battle with leaks of alleged conversations.  In February, a recording that appeared to show Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland saying “F--- the E.U." in a private conversation with Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was uploaded to YouTube.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the recording “was first noted and tweeted out by the Russian government. I think it says something about Russia’s role.”

Another leaked call apparently captured a conversation between Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton about who was behind the snipers who shot at Kiev protesters.

Former Ukrainian prime minister and potential presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko was featured in the most recent of the alleged leaks. The Moscow Times reported Monday on an audio recording uploaded to YouTube and dated March 8. The leaked audio is of an alleged conversation between Tymoshenko and a member of Ukraine's National Security Council in which Tymoshenko suggests that the 8 million Russians living in Ukraine be killed with "nuclear weapons."

 

On Twitter, Tymoshenko suggested the tape had been altered and that she had said that Russians living in Ukraine are Ukrainian.  She also tacked on a "Hello FSB :)" -- a reference to Russian security force that suggests she believes it was the source of the leaked audio.

Tymoshenko was once thought to have a good relationship with Russia. President Vladimir Putin even said, "It's comfortable for us to work with Tymoshenko's government" in 2009. But the alleged audio recording received a lot of attention on pro-Kremlin Russian outlets -- with Russia Today even producing its own translated version. The original version of the audio uploaded to YouTube now has nearly 2.5 million views.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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