Turkey blocked access to YouTube on Thursday after leaked recordings allegedly reveal the Turkish foreign minister and high-ranking government officials plotting an invasion of Syria.
The block comes one week after the country’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, issued a statewide ban on Twitter, which quickly backfired. On Wednesday, a Turkish court ruled that the ban on Twitter should be suspended, but the service remained blocked and government officials argued it had 30 days to implement the order.
Erdoğan, whose party faces key local elections in days, has been targeted by numerous leaks published on social media. He vowed in recent speeches to “eradicate Twitter” to demonstrate to the international community “the power of the Turkish Republic,” and also hinted that YouTube and Facebook would be the next targets.
But at least one researcher believes the goal is actually to vilify information found on social media to keep the government’s core supporters away from it during the run-up to the election. “This is what Erdoğan is now doing to social media: portray it as a place from which only ugly things come from, and which poses a danger to family and to unity,” writes Zeynep Tufekci, an assistant professor at UNC School of Information and Library Science. “Erdoğan likely still has enough supporters to win elections, but to continue to win, he needs to keep them off social media. His game is to scare them about all that comes from social media. He knows they’ll hear of the corruption tapes. But they are now associated with the same source that maligns housewives as porn-stars.”
As citizens staged a group effort to circumvent the Twitter ban, spray-painting the IP addresses of public domain name servers on walls and publishing tutorials on how to set up virtual private networks, the government’s effort to suppress electronic dissent intensified. Google’s Public DNS servers, alongside many virtual private networks, were gradually blocked in Turkey, and users are complaining of wider disruptions of the Internet.