[T]he 60-year-old Mr. Erdogan has turned his democratically elected government into one of the world’s most determined Internet censors.
His political party passed laws letting him shut down websites without a court order and collect Web browsing data on individuals. He put a veteran spy in charge of Turkey’s telecommunications regulator.
He also has blocked dozens of websites. Twitter Inc was banned for two weeks in late March and early April, and Google’s YouTube video-sharing service has been dark since March 27. An opposition newspaper columnist and academic was sentenced Tuesday to 10 months in jail for a tweet that insulted the prime minister, while 29 defendants are on trial on allegations that include using tweets to organize protests and foment unrest last year.
“Let people say whatever they want, we will take care of this ourselves,” Mr. Erdogan said after blocking Twitter.
Tensions were high Thursday as protesters clashed with police trying to enforce a ban on the traditional march to Istanbul’s Taksim Square, long symbolic as a place of dissent on May Day. Some critics of Mr. Erdogan say privately that they feel more nervous about making antigovernment statements. In cafes and bars here, people compare technical workarounds aimed at dodging the government’s website blockages and surveillance efforts. …
Mr. Erdogan’s shake-up, a rapid-fire response to a power struggle with political enemies, has left Internet companies and government officials from Washington to Brussels worried that Turkey could become a template for other countries where leaders want to rein in the Internet without cracking down with as much force as China or Iran.