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Turkey

Social media in Turkey under threat from Turkish PM Erdogan

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned drastic steps could be taken to censor social media websites like Facebook and YouTube. However the country's president has said such a ban is "out of the question."

President Abdullah Gul said on Friday that websites like YouTube and Facebook cannot be blocked in Turkey, despite the prime minister's threat.

"YouTube and Facebook are recognized platforms all over the world. A ban is out of the question," Gul, a frequent social media user, told reporters.

The words of the president, a largely ceremonial role in Turkey, contrast starkly with Erdogan's comments made late Thursday night to broadcaster ATV. The prime minister said he was "determined" to end the leaks in recent weeks to Facebook and YouTube of alleged conversations indicating corruption.

Erdogan (pictured above) said the leaks were a "vile" and "immoral" montage by his rivals ahead of elections on March 30. He called the recordings "completely untrue." He also accused supporters of influential US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen of engaging in "espionage" by infiltrating the police and judiciary and listening in on encrypted phone lines.

"There are new steps we will take in that sphere after March 30 … including a ban [on YouTube and Facebook]," he said.

Determination despite backlash

Erdogan's threat has generated backlash in Turkey and abroad, but he has vowed to do whatever he deems necessary to stop what he views as "immorality" and unauthorized leaks.

"We are determined on the issue, regardless of what the world may say," he said. "We won't allow the people to be devoured by YouTube, Facebook or others. Whatever steps need to be taken we will take them without wavering."

Erdogan added those steps could include shutting down certain websites entirely "because these people or institutions are [using social media] for all kinds of immorality, all kinds of espionage and spying."

The prime minister claims to be the victim of a Gulen-orchestrated plot and has accused so-called "Gulenists" of behaving like a "parallel state." He's vowed to end the movement by purging police and passing laws that increase his power over the Internet and judiciary.

Erdogan has spoken out against the power of social media in the past, calling Twitter a "menace" last year for its role in helping organize mass anti-government protests that killed eight people and injured thousands.

dr/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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