ISTANBUL — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has called Twitter “the worst menace to society” and a tool of foreign conspirators. For good measure, he has also accused it of evading taxes.
After ordering the social media site to be blocked in March, he reluctantly turned it back on for Turkey’s millions of Internet users two weeks ago, only because the country’s highest court demanded that he do so. But his office has stopped posting Twitter messages in his name, even though he has 4.2 million followers, almost as many as the White House.
That was the atmosphere that a delegation of Twitter officials stepped into when it arrived in Ankara, the capital, this week for a series of meetings with Turkish officials to smooth things over.
The Turks came to the table with a list of demands: that Twitter open an office in Turkey, that it reveal the identities of those posting leaks from a continuing corruption investigation, and that it pay taxes on revenue it earns from advertising in Turkey.
Twitter agreed to prevent some posts from being seen in Turkey, although they will still be viewable in other parts of the world. It will not, however, open an office in Turkey, although it did appoint a local representative to handle complaints from the Turkish government. The company did not comment on the government’s request for user identifications, but in the past, Twitter has refused to provide Internet data that would allow a government to identify a user.
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It also said it would pay taxes applicable to an affiliate that sells advertising for Twitter in Turkey. The Turkish government estimates that Twitter generates $35 million per year in advertising revenue in the country.
“Decisions on further investment and opening an office are decisions that we make everywhere in the world based on the economic climate and the justification for further investment,” Colin Crowell, a Twitter vice president in charge of global public policy, said in an interview on Wednesday in Istanbul. “Obviously, turning off our service does not add to the attractiveness of making an investment, and the climate for investment for a company like ours has to include a certain understanding about service continuity.”
An official in the prime minister’s office, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, “What mattered for us was the establishment of a healthy communication and representation, which was pretty much accomplished.”
The official said that Twitter had appointed a lawyer from a Turkish firm to review court rulings ordering the removal of certain content, while another employee at Twitter’s Dublin office was assigned to review court documents in cases against Twitter filed by Turkish citizens alleging violations of privacy.
The controversy over Twitter in Turkey arose from a graft inquiry that has targeted Mr. Erdogan and his inner circle. Mr. Erdogan has said the inquiry is politically motivated by members of the judiciary and the police force who he says are loyal to a former ally of his, the Muslim spiritual leader Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Erdogan has called Mr. Gulen’s allies in the government a “parallel state” that is using the corruption inquiry to mount a coup. In purging thousands of police officers and prosecutors, Mr. Erdogan has brought the Turkish justice system to a virtual standstill, but that has not stopped a series of leaks of wiretapped recordings from appearing on social media sites like Twitter and YouTube. Twitter had been blocked for about two weeks in Turkey, and YouTube is still blocked.
Turkish intelligence and law enforcement officials believe that the leaks originated from the United States and have asked Twitter, as well as American law enforcement officials, for help in identifying the perpetrators, according to one Turkish government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under government protocol. But so far, the official said, Turkey has received little help from either in locating the individuals behind the leaks.
In alluding to the Gulen movement, which Mr. Erdogan has cast as an organization loyal to the United States and Israel, the prime minister recently called Twitter a “tool of foreign influence.”
“Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are international companies established for profit,” Mr. Erdogan said in remarks last weekend. “Twitter is at the same time a tax evader. We will go after it.”
In reality, though, Mr. Erdogan’s remarks are aimed at his domestic supporters, many of whom are inclined to accept the prime minister’s view that foreign conspiracies lurk around every corner. He has little leverage in shaping Twitter’s business decisions.