Elon Musk
Twitter CEO Elon Musk. Wikimedia Commons

Elon Musk, a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist, has come under fire for reportedly censoring the Twitter accounts of opponents of the Turkish government.

On Saturday, Twitter blocked some of the posts in Turkey, just a day before the most hotly contested Turkish elections seen in decades.

Turkey held its parliamentary and presidential elections on May 14. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing tough competition from his rivals; in fact, it is being dubbed his toughest election campaign so far.

Some polls have suggested that he is losing against opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, while others suggest that it is a close fight. And there are apprehensions that Erdogan will not accept the election results if they are not in his favour.

Meanwhile, Twitter has failed to reveal what posts or tweets it blocked just before the country went to the polls. It also did not mention at whose directive the step was taken.

"In response to legal process and to ensure Twitter remains available to the people of Turkey, we have taken action to restrict access to some content in Turkey today," Twitter's Global Government Affairs account announced on Friday.

"We have informed the account holders of this action in line with our policy. This content will remain available in the rest of the world," the statement further stated.

This did not go down well with Twitter users, who have been slamming Musk for his actions. Several of them dug up his past tweets defending free speech and freedom of expression.

"Shame On You! Shame On Twitter! Since when do you restrict the individual's freedom of speech and side with tyrants ?" commented a Twitter user.

"There's no freedom of speech here Serc. It's a US Corporation! Anyway, the guy no matter what, won't accept any result but win," added another.

But Musk is not one to be schooled. When someone joked that someday there would be "Twitter Files" reporting about the incident, he seemed to lose his cool. "Did your brain fall out of your head, Yglesias? The choice is have Twitter throttled in its entirety or limit access to some tweets. Which one do you want?" Musk responded.

Musk calls himself a "free speech absolutist" and has done away with Twitter's independent Trust and Safety Council, laid off hundreds of employees, and reinstated banned accounts. He believes that content permitted by law can be allowed on Twitter.

The step to ban Twitter accounts is being seen as an attack on free speech. Musk is being called a "hypocrite" for allegedly bowing down to the country's autocratic ruler, Erdogan.

A report by Vanity Fair claims that the banned accounts included investigative journalist Cevheri Güven and a businessman named Muhammed Yakut, who has spoken out against Erdogan's government in the past.

A recent report even claimed that Musk has complied with more than 80% of government demands for censorship or surveillance since taking over the platform last year.

The report published by Rest of World, a technology publication, said that Twitter agreed to remove posts related to a BBC documentary on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The platform has also failed to publish a transparency report since Musk's takeover.

It went on to add that a significant portion of requests to block or restrict content on the platform came from countries like India, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

It also needs to be noted that Turkey banned Twitter for two weeks in 2014 for refusing to remove a post accusing a former government official of corruption. The official who had refused to comply with the Turkish government was the first one to be fired by Musk in 2022, the report added.

Musk reinstated former US President Donald Trump's account soon after taking control of Twitter. He also reinstated rapper Kanye West's account, all in the name of free speech. West was banned from Twitter for posting anti-Semitic tweets. Twitter had to ban West again after the latter posted anti-Semitic tweets soon after his account was reinstated.

Musk may have made tall claims when he decided to take over Twitter, but that does not seem to be happening in reality. It now remains to be seen how long he can continue to "defend" absolute free speech.