Twitter accused of tax evasion
15 April 2014, 08:31
Istanbul - Turkey urged executives from Twitter to open an office and start paying Turkish tax in the first direct talks since a two-week ban imposed on the site as the government battled a corruption scandal.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government blocked Twitter and YouTube in March, drawing international condemnation, after audio recordings, purportedly showing corruption in his inner circle, were leaked on their sites.
The block was lifted 10 days ago after the constitutional court ruled that it breached freedom of expression, a decision Erdogan has since said was wrong and should be overturned. YouTube remains largely blocked in Turkey.
The prime minister on Saturday accused Twitter of being a "tax evader", repeating his combative stance ahead of the talks between his government and the San Francisco-based company.
"Twitter, YouTube, Facebook...these are international companies. They're companies established for profit," he said at the opening ceremony for a purification plant in Istanbul.
"We will deal with them. They will come like every international company and comply with my country's constitution, laws and tax rules," Erdogan was reported as saying.
A senior Turkish official said that Twitter's head of global public policy, Colin Crowell, was holding two rounds of talks in Ankara with the aim of opening up a better channel of communication.
"The aim is for the company to pay tax and to resolve the problem of meeting Turkey's just demands by opening a representative office here," he said.
The government estimates that Twitter generates $35m a year in advertising revenue in Turkey, none of it taxed by Ankara, he said.
Access to the service was blocked on 21 March in the run-up to local elections to stem a stream of leaked wiretapped recordings.
Erdogan said he would "root out" the network.
Tech-savvy Turks quickly found workarounds, and the company itself published a tweet to Turkish users instructing them on how to continue tweeting via SMS.