Elon Musk’s Twitter caves to Turkish demands of censorship

Let’s start with something basic: Freedom of expression is absolutely essential to democratic or republican government. The syllogism works like this. If you have a right to vote freely, you have a right to have as informed a choice as possible. In order to make such an informed choice, you have to be able to receive information freely, and if people cannot speak freely, you cannot receive information freely. Therefore, freedom of expression is absolutely essential to free elections. Frankly, by this metric, few world governments are truly democratic or republican.

Turkey is one of those countries that isn’t truly republic (as they claim) because they do not have free speech. For instance, Article 299 of their penal code literally punishes you for insulting the president of Turkey. That significantly impairs the ability of any opponent to actually challenge the incumbent (but it doesn’t limit incumbents), because it hems in how one can criticize the persons currently in power. After all, if that law was enacted in America, Donald Trump would have racked up probably 200 years in prison by now! And Joe Biden wouldn’t have been too far behind by the time he took office in 2020. And that is only scratching the surface of Turkish censorship.

With that in mind, we are nonetheless coming up on an election in Turkey this Sunday that promises to be close, despite the competition being hobbled by censorship:

And with that election looming, Twitter has caved to Turkish demands of censorship:

Taking them at face value, they are saying they have prevented certain accounts from being heard in Turkey. They are available in the rest of the world, but for some reason, people in Turkey are not allowed to see … whoever these people are and whatever they are saying. Twitter seems to be saying that some kind of legal process had been initiated and there was a belief that if they didn’t censor these people, then all of Twitter might have been prohibited. So, we can see what the people in Turkey are not allowed to see.

Of course, one person has a theory about how people in Turkey could get around this problem:

We have no idea if that would work.

Naturally, this got some pushback:

We should find out what exactly the people of Turkey are not allowed to see.

For making your country less democratic?

We don’t know if that would work, but censors tend to be dumb, so … maybe?

And of course, a great deal of it involved calling out Musk himself:

We have some sympathy for the difficult position Musk finds himself in. If we take Twitter at face value, it was either allow the entire platform to be censored, or censor a few voices. They might have also deduced that if Twitter was available in their country, that the messages might get through. Further, you might hope that the fact that Turkey was demanding censorship on the eve of the election might create something similar to the Streisand Effect, making people turn against Erdogan even more.

Still, we can’t help but think that the ideal answer would be to tell the government of Turkey to pound sand and then do something like offer free Starlink in the country, just to take a stand.

But Twitter might not be able to afford that, these days, in part because of the liberal campaign to degrade it, motivated by their own hostility to free speech. The ugly truth is tyrants don’t like free speech, and tyrants will not confine their censorship to their own borders. If they think they can use their economic power to censor the world—as China has—they will do it.

It’s not a cheerful thought, but it is the reality we deal with.

Update: via @filmladd, we discovered that we missed Musk’s response to Mr. Yglesias’ tweet above:

He also promised further transparency:

Still, we think the ideal response is to tell the world’s censors to pound sand.


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Morning Digest: January 23, 2023

Prime Minister Narendra Modi
| Photo Credit: PTI

PM calls for reforms in prison management system

Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested prison reforms to improve jail management and recommended repealing obsolete criminal laws, at the annual police meet that concluded on January 22. Mr. Modi attended the 57th All-India Conference of Director Generals/ Inspector Generals of Police, organised by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) on January 21 and 22.

G20 business meet begins in Gandhinagar

As part of the G20 presidency, a Business 20 (B20) inception meeting began in Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar on Sunday with over 600 delegates participating in the event, to deliberate on issues ranging from climate change, innovation, global digital cooperation and resilient global value chains. The B20 India 2023 dialogue is taking place under the theme of ‘RAISE,’ an acronym for Responsible, Accelerated, Innovative, Sustainable and Equitable Businesses.

Rahul Gandhi’s security topmost concern, will follow security agencies’ suggestions: Congress

The Congress on Sunday said the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ will follow the directions of the security agencies as the security of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is of topmost concern. The statement comes as Jammu witnessed twin blasts on Saturday that left many civilians injured. “We are in touch with the security agency. Any suggestions from them will be followed. There can be no compromise when it comes to the security of Mr. Rahul Gandhi. His security is of topmost concern for us,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said in Kathua.

Ten killed in mass shooting at Monterey Park in California’s Los Angeles

A gunman killed 10 people and wounded 10 others at a Los Angeles-area ballroom dance club following a Lunar New Year celebration, setting off a manhunt for the suspect in the latest mass shooting tragedy in an American community. Capt. Andrew Meyer of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said on Jan. 22 that the wounded were taken to hospitals and their conditions range from stable to critical. He said the 10 people died at the scene in the city of Monterey Park.

Erdogan announces Turkish elections to be held on May 14

Turkey’s president has announced May 14 as the date for the country’s next parliamentary and presidential elections. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who plans to seek reelection, made the announcement during a Saturday youth conference in northwestern Bursa province. A video of the event was released Sunday. “I thank God that we are destined to share our path with you, our valued youth, who will vote for the first time in the elections that will be held on May 14,” said Mr. Erdogan, who had hinted at the date last week.

Some people consider  BBC above SC in India: Kiren Rijiju on documentary critical of PM Modi

Union Minister Kiren Rijiju on January 22 took on the “malicious campaigns” inside and outside India in connection to the BBC’s documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and said that some people “consider the BBC above the Supreme Court of India”. Mr. Rijiju alleged that they “lower” the country’s dignity and image to any extent to “please their moral masters”. Taking to Twitter, the Union Minister said that minorities in the country are moving ahead positively.

Russia says West’s deliveries of new weapons to Ukraine will lead to global catastrophe

A close ally of President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday that deliveries of offensive weapons to Kyiv that threaten Russia’s territories will lead to a global catastrophe and make arguments against using weapons of mass destruction untenable. Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Duma — Russia’s lower house of parliament — warned that the United States and NATO’s support of Ukraine is leading the world to a “terrible war”. “If Washington and NATO countries supply weapons that will be used to strike civilian cities and attempt to seize our territories, as they threaten, this will lead to retaliatory measures using more powerful weapons,” Volodin said on the Telegram messaging app.

China logs nearly 13,000 COVID-19 deaths in a week

China reported nearly 13,000 COVID-related deaths in hospitals between January 13 and 19, after a top health official said the vast majority of the population had already been infected. The death toll came a week after China said nearly 60,000 people had died with Covid in hospitals in just over a month — but there has been widespread scepticism over official data since Beijing abruptly axed anti-virus controls last month.

After Tripura and Meghalaya, defection hits poll-bound Nagaland

After Tripura and Meghalaya, defection has hit election-bound Nagaland. Former Nagaland Minister Imkong L. Imchen resigned as MLA of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) less than a year after joining it. He has joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a minor ally of the NDPP in the Nagaland Government. Mr. Imchen, who has represented the Koridang Assembly constituency since 2003, cited personal reasons in his resignation letter to the Nagaland Legislative Assembly Secretary. The resignation is with effect from the forenoon of January 20.

Special remission programme: 189 Maharashtra jail inmates to be released on Republic Day

A total of 189 convicts will be released from prisons across Maharashtra, including three from Thane Central Jail, on Republic Day as part of the Union government’s special remission programme to mark 75 years of Independence, an official said on Sunday. The three inmates from Thane are undergoing jail terms for attempt to murder and other crimes, he added.

Hockey World Cup | India tumbles out after a dramatic shoot-out against New Zealand

It took 19 shots in the shootout and the sudden death to separate the two teams but in the end, India was left ruing the multitude of what-ifs as it lost 5-4 on penalties to New Zealand after being tied 3-3 in regulation time in the hockey World Cup crossover match here on Sunday night. Worse, India lost P.R. Sreejesh for the last three shots through injury and although Krishan Pathak did his best, India’s attackers fumbled under pressure.

India women start favourites against West Indies in T20I tri series

Hoping for its seniors to return to the playing XI, the Indian team will look to continue the winning run, when it takes on the West Indies in the Women’s T20 Tri-Series match on Monday. The Indians, without skipper Harmanpreet Kaur in the win over hosts South Africa, gave a good account of themselves in their opener. The captain missed the tie against South Africa owing to illness and it remains to be seen if she returns for the match against the West Indies, who are coming off a big loss against the home side.

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