While the Anadolu Agency said the national telecommunications authorities had instituted the block, the website was still widely accessible following the announcement. The block against YouTube is likely to provoke further outrage in Turkey, where social media is widely used.
Key allies, including the US and the European Union, had criticized the earlier move against Twitter as a restriction of free speech and a step backward for Turkish democracy. That ban came shortly after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to “rip out the roots” of Twitter, which has been a conduit for links to recordings suggesting government corruption. Turkey holds crucial local elections Sunday, widely regarded as a referendum on Erdoğan’s rule.
A telecommunications authority webpage gave the following information for YouTube.com: “After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the law, an administrative measure has been taken for this website.”
In an emailed statement from Google Inc., which owns YouTube, spokeswoman Abbi Tatton said the company had seen reports that some users in Turkey weren’t able to access YouTube.
“There is no technical issue on our side and we’re looking into the situation,” she said.
The ban comes after an alleged audio recording of a meeting between the Turkey’s foreign minister, intelligence chief and top military and foreign ministry officials was leaked on YouTube. The four are allegedly heard discussing a military intervention in Syria, a sensitive political issue in Turkey. Though the context of the conversation is not clear.
Earlier Thursday, Erdoğan railed against the leak of an audio recording during a campaign rally.
“Even this meeting is being posted on YouTube,” he said. “This is immoral, this is sleaze, this is shameful, this is dishonorable.”
Shortly after Thursday’s announcement, European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes in a tweet called the block against YouTube “another desperate and depressing move in Turkey.”
“I express my support for all those supporters of real freedom and democracy,” she said. “We in Europe stand for an open Internet and free expression on it.”
The attempted crackdown on Twitter came after links to other wiretapped recordings suggesting corruption were spread on the microblogging site, causing Erdoğan’s government major embarrassment before Sunday’s local elections.
Erdoğan has confirmed that he personally ordered the block on Twitter, alleging that the company wasn’t following Turkish laws. Despite the block, many Turkish users have found ways to access Twitter.
Erdoğan has blamed a movement led by US-based moderate Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former political ally of Erdoğan. Also on Thursday, a television station linked to Gulen said that Turkish authorities have withdrawn its license to broadcast nationally.