Turkey accuses Twitter of anti-govt ‘smear’ campaign

Turkey on Friday rejected as a “smear” campaign claims by Twitter that thousands of fake profiles had been set up to boost support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Twitter said more than 7,300 accounts were detected in early 2020 with the primary aim of propping up Erdogan and his ruling party — all of which have since been deleted.

They were among over 32,000 accounts removed by Twitter which said they were used by China, Russia and Turkey for propaganda, to sow misinformation or attack critics.

“The company’s allegations that those accounts were ‘fake’ profiles designed to support the President and that they were single-handedly managed by a central authority are untrue,” Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun said on Twitter.

He said the “attempt to smear the Government of Turkey and a popular political movement are unacceptable”.

Altun accused the social media network of being a “propaganda machine with certain political and ideological inclinations”.

Turkish authorities have previously imposed temporary blocks on Twitter and other social media during crises, for example following an air strike in Syria’s Idlib which killed dozens of Turkish soldiers in February this year.

In December 2015, Turkey’s communications regulator issued an unprecedented fine on Twitter for allowing the publication of content deemed to justify terror.

Erdogan has previously hit out at Twitter, once comparing social media to a “knife in the hand of a murderer” and saying “I don’t like to tweet, schmeet.”

His aversion dates back to anti-government protests in 2013, which were often mobilised by Twitter and Facebook posts.

Altun warned Twitter against such steps, including an attempt to portray Turkey “in a certain political light.

“We would like to remind this company of the eventual fate of a number of organisations, which attempted to take similar steps in the past,” he said. 

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