POLITICS

Did Turkish PM Erdogan Get The Idea To Block Twitter From Louise Mensch?

21/03/2014 10:55 GMT | Updated 21/03/2014 10:59 GMT
Stefan Wermuth/PA Archive
Conservative MP Louise Mensch arrives at the Members' Lobby of the House of Commons in Westminster, London, during the State Opening of Parliament.

The Turkish prime minister has moved to silence anti-government protesters responsible for multiple demonstrations in recent weeks by blocking access to Twitter. Did he perhaps get the idea from former British Conservative MP Louise Mensch?

The decision by Islamist PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has led to a fierce backlash by freedom of speech campaigners. But as Tory MP Douglas Carswell reminds us, there were similar demands from UK politicians not so long ago.

Back in 2011, when London was hit by rioting, Mensch said David Cameron should respond by closing down social media networks.

The then MP for Corby and East Northampstonshire tweeted: "Common sense. If riot info and fear is spreading by Facebook and Twitter, shut them off for an hour or two, then restore. World won't implode."

"If short, necessary and only used in an emergency, so what. We'd all survive if Twitter shut down for a short while during major riots."

mecnshtwitter

The irony of using Twitter to call for Twitter to be shut down appeared to be lost on Mensch - who later went on to found her own version of Twitter called Menshn.

At the time, Cameron indicated he was prepared to look at banning people believed to be involved in organising riots from Twitter and Facebook. But he never acted on that threat.

In Turkey, Erdogan threatened to close access to Twitter in a speech on Thursday. At midnight (local time), access to the popular communication tool stopped, with PC users, confronted with a notice from Turkey's telecommunications authority citing court orders, forced to use a virtual private network (VPN) to gain access to their accounts. No access was available for mobile users.

Mensch's call was for a temporary Twitter shutdown - a line echoed by Turkish president Abdullah Gul, who says he hopes his country's ban on the micro-blogging site is temporary.

The move by Erdogen comes ahead of local elections on March 30, followed by parliamentary elections, the build up to which has been dogged by allegations of fraud and corruption.