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Teleportation In, Twitter Out In Turkey - Where Is Olivia Pope When You Need Her?

For a Prime Minister who's embraced technology more so than other national leaders of sovereign states, one's hard pressed to sympathize with a man who chose to ban Twitter to cover up a political scandal. The disruption and "going dark" incident sparked public fury and outrage prompting the hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey to go viral within in minutes of the announcement.

The international community which up till now had very little to say negatively about this government -- began to compare Turkey to Iran and North Korea -- where social media platforms are tightly controlled. As a direct result, the subsequent cause-and-effect has labeled Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan a marked man in social media circles.

"Twitter, mwitter!," Erdogan told thousands of supporters at a rally held for local elections, which is loosely translated as: "Twitter, schmitter!"

The official statement from Erdogan justified his actions. He issued court orders against those who had posted voice recordings and links to documents purportedly showing evidence of corruption within Erdogan's inner circle. The Prime Minister has hel control over all of Turkey's traditional media - television and print - but up till this ban, he was hard pressed to force the ten million Turkish Twitter users from sharing damaging leaked accusations to the world.

According to Reuters, the San Francisco-based microblogging site said on March 20 that is was looking into the matter and had not issued a formal response. But Twitter did publish a tweet addressed to Turkish users instructing them how to continue tweeting via SMS text messaging on their cell phones. Ironically, it was only three short years ago that Twitter announced to the world they were adding two NEW languages to their translation center - ironically those two languages emanated from the two countries eating up most of the news headlines these days - namely, Russia and Turkey.


It's understandable that Twitter might want to weigh its options before jumping into the fray. While their terms of service favor unencumbered 'free expression,' Erdogan might want to play hard ball before reversing  the shut-down.

“Twitter has to obey Turkish laws just like it has to obey in other counties such as the United States and England," said Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek during an address on television.

"Twitter must get a legal representative in Turkey and agree to block individual accounts if it is to resolve [this] row which has led the government to block access to the service," Industry Minister Fikri Isik also said on March 21.

Nonetheless the PM's opposition to social media comes as something of a surprise since he has embraced other technologies - such as - of all things - teleportation. In January, when Erdogan couldn’t be present at a party meeting to deliver a speech, he sent a 10-foot hologram of himself to deliver remarks. It represented perhaps the first time any leader of any country had actually been teleported.


In addition he had amassed 4.17 million followers on his Twitter account and issued 3043 tweets.


And ironically -- apparently in attempt of having-his-cake-and-eat-it-too -- before he dimmed the lights on Twitter, he tweeted the following link to one of his propaganda-oriented YouTube videos.

The video of course showed political support for the Prime Minister as Turks were seen swarming to a Turkish flagpole analogous of bees honing in on a honeycomb.


As far as Olivia Pope helping the Prime Minister out -- for those who are addicted to the widelOlivia PopeOlivia Popey-popular TV drama Scandal know -- had he hired a super-savvy crisis-manager the likes of Ms. Pope he might have saved himself a lot of grief. While the man can say he doesn't care what the global community thinks of him - as we've seen in the past in other Middle Eastern countries - social media has the power to rally one's opposition to take to the streets and like the Ukraine- a Turkish Spring might be just around the corner!

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Ron Callari
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