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Turkey earthquake: Twitter access restored after government restricts site

Social media platform re-enabled after talks with Turkish government about alleged quake misinformation
In this file photo taken on 26 April 2022, the Twitter logo is seen at their headquarters in downtown San Francisco, California (AFP)
In this file photo taken on 26 April 2022, the Twitter logo is seen at their headquarters in downtown San Francisco, California (AFP)

Twitter has been restored in Turkey after it was restricted on Wednesday following the deadly earthquake in the south of the country. 

“Metrics confirm access to Twitter is being restored in Turkey following hours of filtering,” tweeted web monitoring site NetBlocks early on Thursday. 

It came after talks between Twitter and Turkish authorities about content being posted following the quake. 

Turkey’s Deputy Transport Minister Omer Fatih Sayan said that during the discussions, he had reminded Twitter of its “responsibilities to our country after the disaster”.

“Our demands are clear, strong cooperation on disinformation and false reports, swift action against fake accounts and ... measures against content that could damage public order and security," Sayan said on Twitter.

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On Wednesday night, Twitter boss Elon Musk tweeted that the Turkish government had informed him that access would be re-enabled. 

More than 17,000 people have died since the 7.8-magnitude quake struck the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep on Monday, followed by a 7.5-magnitude earthquake in the Kahramanmaras province shortly after.

The death toll has risen to 14,014 in Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Thursday morning. At least 3,150 people have died in neighbouring Syria.

Restriction created 'unnecessary problems' 

On Wednesday, users said their access to the site was completely blocked without a VPN, while others said their access had been severely slowed.

The Turkish government regularly restricts Twitter access in the wake of disasters and incidents such as bomb attacks, supposedly as a means of countering disinformation.

In a speech on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that he would not allow "disinformation" to spread in the wake of the earthquakes and called on Turks not to listen to "provocateurs".

Eighteen people have been detained since the earthquake after posting “provocative” social media content critical of the government’s response, AFP reported. 

Gurkan Ozturan, coordinator of the rapid response unit at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, told Middle East Eye on Wednesday that the throttling of Twitter created unnecessary problems.

"Social media in this whole process has been crucial to coordinate efforts to amplify voices of the victims from under the debris and for rescue teams to detect their location and offer support, as well as [helping] humanitarian and civil society organisations to raise donations," he said.

"This action simply adds a new layer to the already troubled situation and creates more problems for the victims and volunteers, as well as those who are trying to hear from their loved ones from the impacted cities."

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