Senators blast Turkey over Twitter blackout

A bipartisan pair of senators is looking to formally condemn the Turkish government for shutting down social media sites like Twitter.

In a resolution introduced on Thursday, Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) accused the country’s leadership of violating the right to free speech.

“The touchstone of a modern and legitimate democracy is the freedom of expression enjoyed by its people,” Murphy, who chairs the Foreign Relations subcommittee on Europe, said in a statement. “In 2014, a fundamental expression of that freedom is a people’s access to social media sites that allow them to share information and contribute to a conversation about the world around them.”

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He called for the government to end the blackout if it “wishes to move toward eventual integration into the European Union…”

Johnson, the top Republican on the European Affairs subcommittee, also worried about Turkey’s move in light of the Obama’s administration’s decision to relinquish control of a critical Internet management system.

“The ability of any private citizen to compete openly in offering information to others has made the Internet one of the greatest deregulatory success stories of all time,” he said.

“The Turkish shutdown of Twitter and YouTube for political purposes shows the danger of foreign governments gaining control over this incredible forum for liberty.” 

Last week, the Turkish government blacked out Twitter in the country, in a response to links on the site that seemed to show officials engaged in corruption. On Thursday, the Turkish telecommunications regulator made moves to block YouTube, as well, after a recording on the site appeared to show top officials discussing a possible attack on Syria.

The move comes days ahead of critical nationwide municipal elections on Sunday.

A court in Ankara has ordered the government to lift the ban on Twitter in the next 30 days, which could leave the social media site blocked when polls open.