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Turkish PM vows to 'eradicate' Twitter, users see service disruptions

By Ivan Watson and Gul Tuysuz, CNN
March 21, 2014 -- Updated 0029 GMT (0829 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to shut down social media sites
  • He says Twitter's management has ignored court orders
  • Outrage erupts online when service disruptions hit
  • Twitter users quickly advertise workaround procedures

(CNN) -- Hours after Turkey's prime minister vowed to "eradicate" Twitter, Turkish Internet users began to experience widespread disruptions Thursday while trying to access the popular social networking website.

Outrage and fury erupted online. Within an hour the hashtags "#TwitterisblockedinTurkey," "#DictatorErdogan" and "TurkeyBlockedTwitter" surged to the service's top worldwide trends.

Meanwhile, Twitter swiftly offered subscribers a work-around via its verified policy account by advertising an alternative way to send out tweets using cell-phone instant messaging.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan first vowed to shut Twitter down at a campaign rally on Thursday in the city of Bursa.

"Now there is a court order. Twitter, mwitter, we will eradicate it all," Erdogan said, using a Turkish expression that mocked the name of the social networking site.

"The international community will say this and that, and it doesn't concern me one bit," Erdogan added, apparently anticipating the subsequent uproar.

"They will see the power of the Turkish Republic. This has nothing to do with freedom-shmeedom. Freedom is not invading someone's privacy."

Several hours later, the prime ministry released a statement accusing Twitter's management of ignoring court orders calling for the removal of web links from the website.

"Twitter officials remained indifferent to these demands," the prime ministry announced, according to the semiofficial Anadolu news agency.

"Access to Twitter may be blocked as a last resort to avert the unjust treatment of our citizens in case of a continuation of this ignorance of the court rulings."

While many Twitter users reported blockages to the website, others quickly advertised workaround procedures.

The Twitter crackdown follows earlier threats by Erdogan to shut down popular social networking sites Facebook and YouTube.

The latest move against Twitter comes 10 days before Turks are expected to go to the polls in municipal elections that will be held nationwide.

The government has also been working to block embarrassing leaks emerging on social media linked to a corruption investigation that embroiled four of Erdogan's former cabinet ministers. Erdogan claims the investigation is a "coup plot."

He has sought to crush the probe by firing thousands of police officers and prosecutors.

Nonetheless, embarrassing wiretaps of telephone conversations between Erdogan, his family members and top members of Turkey's ruling elite have been leaked on a daily basis on an assortment of popular Internet sites.

CNN has been unable to confirm the authenticity of the recordings, some of which have been described as "immorally edited material" by Erdogan.

But the prime minister confirmed some of the conversations, including a call in which he ordered the head of a TV news channel to censor the live broadcast of an opposition lawmaker's speech.

On Wednesday, lawmakers from Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party succeeded in blocking an attempt by opposition leaders to read out portions of the corruption investigation indictment in an extraordinary session of parliament.

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