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Friday, May 2, 2014

Silicon Valley Companies Enter Political Fray in Turkey

Posted By on Fri, May 2, 2014 at 4:20 PM

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While labor activists clashed with police outside 16th Street BART station in San Francisco, protesters in Turkey shot firecrackers at riot police, who then pounded them with tear gas and water cannons.

Political tensions are only deepening as Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tightens controls over a democratically elected government, turning it into an authoritarian regime.

Now, he's trying to exercise power over the Internet, by choking off citizens' access to Twitter and YouTube, along with scads of other social networks, according to the Wall Street Journal.

YouTube went black in March, while Twitter and Google were inundated with requests to take down content. Meanwhile, an opposition columnist is serving a 10-month jail sentence for affronting Erdogan in a tweet.

Turkey isn't the only country that's enforcing political controls via Internet censorship -- Iran, China, and Russia are already notorious for such tactics. But Silicon Valley companies have been particularly bullish about opposing Erdogan's campaign, possibly because Turkey represents a promising -- and largely untapped -- advertising market Journal reporters Joe Parkinson, Sam Schechner, and Emre Peker suggest. They note that online ad spending reached $615 million in Turkey last year -- still 1.4 percent of the US, though it appears to be growing faster.

That's enough to spur Twitter into ongoing talks with Turkish officials, and Google has filed multiple court appeals to reverse the YouTube ban. But they may have to campaign to get other Silicon Valley companies on board: One of Turkey's main Internet service providers -- in which the government is a primary shareholder -- uses special filter technology to scan through posts and trace them back to the authors.

It's at least partly created by Palo Alto Networks, Inc., a company based here.

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.


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