Turkey maintains lead in Twitter censorship - transparency report

Turkey led the way in Twitter censorship in numerous categories, maintaining the highest number of third-party takedown requests, court orders and accounts and tweets withheld, according to the popular social media platform’s latest Transparency Report.

The country placed at the top of the combined requests category - including court orders and other legal demands - with 45,776 requests, followed by Japan with 38,941 requests and Russia, which had 30, 436 combined requests, according to the report covering Jan.-June 2020.

Turkey also topped the list of countries with the most court orders sent to Twitter during the first half of 2020, with a total of 6,513. The country was followed by Russia with 2,972 and South Korea with 515 court orders, according to the report.

Leading in the category of "other legal demands category" (non-court order requests), Turkey submitted a total of 39,263 requests during the first six months of 2020. The country is followed by Japan, which jumped to second place with 38,814 requests, followed by Russia, which submitted 27,464 such requests, the report said.

Moreover, the country sent 347 information requests to Twitter, which did not comply with any of these during the first six months of the year.

The report arrives as large social media platforms, including Twitter, are faced with the country’s social media law. Passed in July, the law requires platforms with over one million daily users to designate a Turkey representative, who would have to oversee the removal of any piece of content that the Turkish authorities consider illegal within 48 hours of an official request. The law also stipulates stiff penalties for non-compliance. 

In November, Twitter, along with Facebook, Instagram and others, were fined $1.2 million each after failing to appoint a representative to the country.

Ankara maintains the law is an effort to protect approximately 55 million social media users in the country from what it calls disinformation. But critics have voiced concern that the country’s few remaining spaces for free public debate could be slipping into the government’s grip.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) stepped up efforts to control social media after the 2013 Gezi Park protests, the biggest anti-government demonstrations since the Islamists came to power in 2002. The crackdown gathered pace after the 2015 breakdown of a peace process with Kurdish rebels and a failed coup attempt in 2016. 

The largest number of accounts - a total of 2,501 - withheld by Twitter were from Turkey in the first half of the 2020, the report said, followed by Russia with 340 accounts and India with 238.