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Turkey v Twitter: Ankara Fines Social Network for Content 'Praising Terror'

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Twitter - Sputnik International
Continuing what many in the international community consider its assault on free speech, the Turkish government has imposed a hefty fine on social media giant Twitter over the company’s alleged failure to censor "terrorist propaganda."

According to state-run Turkish news agency Anadolu, Ankara’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority has imposed a fine of 150,000 Turkish Lira (US $51,000) on Twitter, accusing the social media company of publishing content that praised terror and incited hatred and violence.

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This is the first time that Twitter has faced such a fine.

While the Turkish government hasn’t released specifics on the offensive content, sources speaking on condition of anonymity to the Hill say the posts in question political protests critical of the administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"It is not related to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which operates close to Turkey, according to the source," David McCabe wrote for the Hill.

Ankara has a habit of going after social media sites. In April, both Twitter and Facebook were temporarily blocked in Turkey, ostensibly due to a court order that forbid the publication of a particular photo which showed a militant pointing a gun at a recently deceased Turkish prosecutor.

Erdogan also pledged to "wipe out Twitter" last March, after accusing the site of promoting negative allegations against his party shortly before local elections.

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Twitter has not responded to the latest penalty.

Ankara has recently enacted a string of policies that not only target Internet users, but free speech at large. A report released by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) earlier this week revealed that Turkey has gradually been expanding its list of banned websites. In 2011, that list contained roughly 15,562 sites, but has now grown to 96,000.

The report also found that nearly 100 Turkish citizens have been arrested in the last ten months for criticizing the Erdogan government. In one of the more baffling instances, the government has sued a doctor named Bilgin Ciftci for publishing a meme which compared Erdogan to the Lord of the Rings character, Gollum.

Ciftci’s attorneys are now trying to prove that the comparison was meant as a sign of endearment.

In this Nov. 24, 2012 file photo, a giant sculpture of Gollum, a character from The Hobbit, is displayed in the Wellington Airport to celebrate the Nov. 28 premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first movie in the trilogy, in Wellington, New Zealand - Sputnik International
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"The prosecutor has called Gollum a 'negative character,'" Hicran Danisman, Cifti’s lawyer, told Sputnik. "We disagree with that, because the character of Gollum symbolizes the fight between good and bad, which takes place inside every person.

"After the defense was heard, it turned out that the prosecutor had taken the decision to prosecute despite not having seen the film trilogy 'Lord of the Rings,'" he added. "The judge said that he hadn’t seen it either."

Turkey has even gone beyond its jurisdiction to accuse the foreign press of criticizing the current regime.

"As a newspaper, you [the New York Times] should know your place," Erdogan said during a May speech, arguing that the paper had interfered with Turkey’s internal affairs by publishing an article entitled "Dark Clouds Over Turkey."

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