Sebnem Arsu reports that A court in Turkey ruled on Wednesday that the government could not ban Twitter, as it sought to do five days ago, and ordered the country’s telecommunications authority to restore access to the service. The action by the government had been met inside and outside the country with an uproar about respect for freedom of expression.
It was not immediately clear whether the ruling would be appealed or overtaken by a new court order.
The court in Ankara, the capital, ruled in response to complaints by Turkey’s bar association and its journalists’ union, arguing that the attempt to block Twitter contravened the freedom of information and communication. The prohibition has been widely bypassed by Twitter users, who have reached the service through alternative channels.
The telecommunications authority imposed the ban on the ground that Twitter refused to remove content that violated personal privacy. But government critics had used Twitter to publicize leaked recordings of telephone conversations that were said to show widespread corruption among government officials and people close to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, including his son. Mr. Erdogan said his adversaries had fabricated the recordings.
Twitter welcomed the ruling, saying that the government ban had been disproportionate and illegal and that the complaints the government had about content had already been addressed.
Legal experts said on Wednesday that the telecommunications authority had the right to appeal the Ankara court’s ruling, but that it should comply and end its attempts to block Twitter. A statement from the Justice Ministry hinted at a delay, saying that the authority had 30 days to comply and that a regional administrative court would have the final say in the case.
Yet another court, the Constitutional Court, was expected to rule on a separate complaint about the Twitter ban, filed by two academic experts on cyberlaw who asserted that the blocking of Twitter infringed on a constitutional right to information.
“We welcome the ruling of the Ankara court, but remain concerned,” said one of the two experts, Yaman Akdeniz of Bilgi University in Istanbul. He said he and the other expert, Kerem Altiparmak of Ankara University, expected the Constitutional Court to agree with the Ankara court. They filed a similar complaint on Wednesday at the European Court of Human Rights.
Mr. Erdogan has continued to assail Twitter, saying the ban will remain in place unless the service complies with local Turkish court rulings to remove some content. Twitter’s general counsel said in a statement that the company had already complied, by suspending two accounts that violated its rules and blocking content of a third from being visible to Turkish users.
Mr. Erdogan also criticized YouTube, which like Twitter has been used to publicize leaked telephone conversations and videos.
“What is this thing called Twitter, anyway?” Mr. Erdogan said late Tuesday on NTV, a privately owned Turkish news channel. “It is a company, involved in communication, social media, et cetera. Now, you look at it and actually see YouTube behind this. They do not have a representative here, but work with the lawyers of YouTube.” He seemed to be referring to the fact that Twitter had hired the same law firm that YouTube used during a dispute with the Turkish authorities in 2008.