In a stunning move Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan banned microblogging site Twitter across his country, in an attempt to quiet critics of his administration as it prepares for crucial elections later this month.
Erdogan and his political party, the AKP, are in the midst of a major corruption scandal. Allegations of bribery and extortion first surfaced on the social media site last December and have since grown louder.
After the order, Erdogan appeared unbothered by the decision.
“We’ll eradicate Twitter,” he said. “I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic.”
But the action has already sparked significant backlash, most notably on Twitter itself. Users in Turkey have found ways to circumvent the block by tricking their computers to think they are outside the country.
Breaking the ban this morning, Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul criticized the order saying, “The wholesale shuttering of social media platforms cannot be approved.”
Sosyal medya platformlarının tamamen kapatılması tasvip edilemez.
— Abdullah Gül (@cbabdullahgul) March 21, 2014
And the hashtag “#twitterisblockedinturkey” has started trending globally.
Turkey is one of the 10 biggest users of Twitter in the world with roughly 15 million users. And it has become a major outlet for political opposition.
In June of 2013, when demonstrations broke out after police evicted protesters attempting to stop the destruction of a park, Twitter was one of the main means of communication for the opposition movement.
More recently, Twitter has been the main source of the corruption allegations plaguing Erdogan’s government. Last month, recordings of what sounded like Erdogan telling his son to dispose of large sums of money were released on Twitter. Erdogan has refuted the recordings, calling them fabrications.