Could Turkey Ban Its Citizens From Facebook And YouTube?

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to block social media sites like Facebook and YouTube amid ongoing political scandals.

Could Turkey Ban Its Citizens From Facebook And YouTube?
The New York Times / Ed Ou

Embroiled in a corruption scandal that threatens his inner circle and decade-long rule, Turkey's prime minister is now looking to silence his political foes by banning social media sites like Facebook and YouTube. 

In an attempt to stem leaked phone calls involving questionable dealings that have tarnished his reputation ahead of local elections, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told ATV he intends to block Facebook and YouTube in the country. 

"We won't allow the people to be devoured by YouTube, Facebook or others," quotes The New York Times. When asked whether that included shutting down the sites, Erdogan replied: "That included. Because these people or institutions are (using social media) for all kinds of immorality, all kinds of espionage and spying."

By spying, he's referring to those aforementioned leaked phone conversations, which implicate him in some rather unethical dealings. 

Including one where he is heard meddling in a court case against a media patron, and another where he demands a media executive drop news coverage of his political rival. Both of those conversations, he has acknowledged, are genuine. (Via Euronews)

Perhaps the most damning leak, however, came from a call between Erdogan and his son, which Erdogan has called a "fabrication." 

In that conversation, Erdogan allegedly instructs his son to dispose of large sums of money on the same day when police carried out raids on the homes of former prime ministers' sons as part of a bribery investigation. (Via BBC)

As you may have guessed, those conversations and the ensuing outrage having been playing out heavily on Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites. 

Turkey ranks in the top 15 in the world for Facebook usage, with more than 80 percent of Turkey's Internet users and nearly half of the country's total population actively using the site. (Via CNN)

The Wall Street Journal notes YouTube was banned sporadically in Turkey between 2007 and 2010, but that banning such sites now "would leapfrog Turkey into a small club of nations that blocks access to [certain] social-networking site[s], including Syria, China, Iran and Turkmenistan."

Erdogan has already taken steps to limit the damage of the leaked phone calls, expanding government control over the Internet and removing hundreds of police officers and prosecutors to stall his corruption investigation. 

Despite earlier approval from Turkey's President Abdullah Gul for Erdogan's expanded Internet control, he has now come out against Erdogan, claiming that a ban on Faceook and YouTube is "out of the question." (Via PBS)

As president, Gul has the ability to veto laws should Erdogan pass legislation banning social media sites. The proposal could also be sent the country's constitutional court, where it would likely be struck down for violating the right to freedom of expression.