Twitter is blocking some posts in Turkey ahead of the country’s high-stakes election Sunday, the American-based social media company announced Friday night.
The decision once again puts Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s controversial free speech policies into the spotlight. This time, critics say, he is ceding to demands from Turkey’s right-wing leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Much of Turkey’s media is under government control, and critics accuse Erdogan of cracking down on social media companies to stifle opposition voices as he tries to stay in power.
The election is Turkey’s most closely contested in years, and polls show opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu running neck-and-neck against Erdogan, who has consolidated power over Turkey during his two decades in power.
Erdogan’s defeat would have profound consequences at home, where his leadership has been defined by personalized one-man rule, and for Turkey abroad, where the NATO member’s ties with the United States, and governments from Europe to the Middle East, have been marked by frequent episodes of crisis. Turks voting Sunday will also elect members of parliament.
If elected, Kilicdaroglu has said he would prioritize strengthening democracy while ending “authoritarian rule.”
“Turkey is a country of prohibitions,” he said in an interview this week. “When we are in power, Turkey will be a country of freedom.”
Voter turnout was high across the country on Sunday and there was no indication that Twitter accounts were being censored.
In February, the government briefly blocked access to Twitter and other social media following the country’s devastating earthquake that killed nearly 50,000 people.
Matt Yglesias, a liberal Washington D.C. blogger, tweeted Saturday morning that “the Turkish government asked Twitter to censor its opponents right before an election and @elonmusk complied.”
Musk — who is planning to step down as CEO in the coming weeks but will continue to run much of the company as chief technology officer — responded and defended the company’s decision.
“Did your brain fall out of your head, Yglesias?” Musk tweeted. “The choice is have Twitter throttled in its entirety or limit access to some tweets. Which one do you want?”