Turkey has moved to block several Facebook pages considered insulting to the Prophet Mohammed. A Turkish court ordered Facebook to close the offending pages in a ruling handed down Sunday, Reuters reports, threatening to block access to the social network if it doesn't comply.
The ruling comes amid heightened tensions in the Middle East over this month's attacks on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which appears to have been motivated, in part, by the publication's depictions of the Prophet Mohammed. One week after the attacks, Charlie Hebdo once again featured the prophet on its cover, sparking protests across the Muslim world. In response, a Turkish court ordered all news sites publishing the cover to be blocked, while authorities launched an inquiry into a newspaper that published four pages of the issue as a show of solidarity.
"different voices — even if they’re sometimes offensive — can make the world a better and more interesting place."
Turkey has taken a hard stance on social media and freedom of speech under right-leaning Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Last year, the government blocked access to Twitter after users posted tweets linking the prime minister to a corruption scandal, and implemented a two-month ban against YouTube on similar grounds. In December, police arrested more than two dozen journalists and media executives in a move that the European Union condemned as an attack on the free press.
Earlier this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company would not censor content published in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, adding that the social network would "never let one country or group of people dictate what people can share across the world." In 2010, Pakistan blocked access to Facebook over a competition that encouraged users to submit cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, but the social network didn't block the pages.
"We stood up for this because different voices — even if they’re sometimes offensive — can make the world a better and more interesting place," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post this month, signing it with the "Je Suis Charlie" hashtag that became a rallying cry among Charlie Hebdo supporters.
In the past, however, Facebook has complied with Turkish requests to censor content. In its latest report on government takedown requests, the company said that censorship on the site increased by 19 percent during the first six months of 2014 compared with the previous six-month period. In Turkey, Facebook removed 1,893 "pieces of content," second only to India.
A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on the court order.
Update 1:40PM ET: BBC News reports that Facebook has complied with the Turkish page block court order.