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Turkey bans YouTube

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The Turkish government banned YouTube on Thursday,
less than a week after Ankara made a similar blackout of the social
networking site Twitter, which is estimated to have more than 10
million Turkish users.
Neither website can be reached on Turkish Internet networks.
The crackdown comes just days before Turks are expected to go to the
polls in nationwide municipal elections.
The Turkish government said its YouTube block came as a response to
the leak of a conversation between top government officials purportedly
discussing the possibility of going to war with neighboring Syria.
Turkey’s top media regulating agency announced a similar ban on the
broadcast of the conversation to television and radio channels.
“It is seen as appropriate that a temporary broadcast ban be
implemented on the voice recordings on social media and alleged to be
between the foreign minister, the head of the National Intelligence
Agency and military officials,” the Radio and Television Supreme
Council — Turkey’s chief media regulating agency — announced on
its website.
Turkey’s political elite has been battered by a campaign of wiretap
leaks recorded by unknown operatives and distributed daily for more
than a month on the Internet.
Until Wednesday, all of the wiretaps seemed to be recordings of phone
conversations between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan, his inner circle, government officials and some top corporate
executives.
Erdogan has called some recordings “immorally edited material,”
including a conversation in which a man who sounds like the Prime
Minister purportedly instructs his son to hide tens of millions of dollars
in cash from police investigators.
But he has also confirmed the authenticity of other wiretaps, in which
he is heard instructing the head of a major television news network to
cut short the live broadcast of a rival politician’s speech in
Parliament.
Turkey’s government has accused social media platforms, including
Twitter and Facebook, of being used to spread false information and
lies since the leaked, high-level conversations from inside the current
government have spread online.
“We’re seeing reports that some users are not able to access YouTube
in Turkey. There is no technical issue on our side and we’re looking
into the situation,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.
YouTube is owned by Google.
Unlike previously leaked recordings — which all sounded like
telephone conversations — the recording released on Wednesday
sounds like audio coming from a microphone planted in a room where
a meeting is being held.
Male Turkish voices can be heard discussing whether to send troops
into neighboring Syria, where Turkey has supported rebels against the
government in Damascus during a conflict that has lasted more than
three years.
“Monitoring such a meeting of a highly confidential nature which was
held at a location such as the office of the Foreign Minister, where
the most sensitive security issues of the State are discussed and
releasing these conversations to the public are a despicable attack, an
act of espionage and a very serious crime against the national security
of Turkey,” announced Turkey’s Foreign Ministry in a statement on
Thursday.
The recording suggests a major security breach within the halls of the
country’s Foreign Ministry.
The bans on Twitter and YouTube may be followed by a broader
crackdown on the Internet.
An official at Turkey’s prime ministry, speaking on the condition of
anonymity, told CNN, “If there are recordings similarly threatening
to national security, there can be similar precautions taken on other
social media.”
This week a Turkish court overruled the government’s ban of Twitter,
but the website is still blocked. According to legal procedures, Turkish
authorities have 30 days to implement the court injunction.

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