Erdoğan announces tighter gov’t control over social media following insults to family
(Updates with statements from Erdoğan's allies, opposition)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed on Wednesday to tighten the government’s control over social media, a long-standing mission of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
In a televised address to his party, Erdoğan said his government is determined to introduce legislation forcing social media companies to establish a legal presence in Turkey, a move that could hold them financially accountable and be obligated to respond to decisions made by the Turkish court.
Erdoğan’s announcement follows a number of detentions over alleged insults against his daughter and son-in-law on social media, following the announced birth of their fourth child on Twitter this week.
“Do you see why we oppose social media like YouTube, Twitter, Netflix, et cetera?” Sözcü newspaper quoted Erdoğan as saying, referring to the alleged offensive comments. “It is imperative that these channels are brought under control.”
“Turkey is not a banana republic,” Erdoğan said. “We will snub those who snub this country’s executive and judicial bodies.”
Many social media users, including opposition politicians, condemned the alleged insults and expressed their support for the Turkish president’s family.
Erdoğan’s government has long been weighing legislation that would censor social media in Turkey.
Earlier this year, following a strong backlash from critics, the ruling party dropped a draft law that would have compelled social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp to employ a representative to Turkey.
Later on Wednesday, the leader of the AKP-allied Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahçeli, announced that he would no longer be using social media.
“Social media has transformed into a bottomless pit, a mine-filled platform, which acknowledges no order or mercy,‘’ Yeni Şafak newspaper quoted Bahçeli saying before suspending all his social media accounts.
A number of MHP lawmakers followed suit, announcing they would also be abandoning social media.
MHP chair Mehmet Taytak, deputy chair Semih Yalçın, lawmakers Ahmet Erbaş and Hasan Kalyoncu all took to Twitter to say they would follow in the footsteps of Bahçeli by suspending their accounts pending a legal regulation.
Meanwhile, the leader of Turkey’s opposition nationalist centre-right Good Party, Meral Akşener, resorted to levity over Erdoğan’s announcement.
“If you shut down Netflix before the end of the last season of Dark, by God, I will be upset.‘’ Akşener said, in an apparent reference to the German science fiction thriller.
Turkey’s Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank on Wednesday took to Twitter to react on the backlash from the opposition on Erdoğan’s plans.
“The opposition can go ahead and admire global monopolists, we will continue to support Turkish youth, entrepreneurs, who will break this digital monopoly,” Varank said on Twitter, in an apparent reference to social media platforms.
Global firmaların, servet kazandıkları ülkelerin kanunlarını hiçe saymaları özgürlük değil, post-modern emperyalizmdir.— Mustafa Varank (@varank) July 1, 2020
Muhalefet, küresel tekelcilerin hayranı olabilir; biz, bu dijital tekeli kıracak gençleri, Türk girişimcileri desteklemeye devam edeceğiz.
Size iyi seyirler!
Critics maintain the AKP’s drive is part of an effort to limit access to independent news outlets in a country already dominated with heavily pro-government media.
Over the weekend, the Turkish president had boasted about his 16.2 million followers on Twitter in a youtube interview, where he stressed the benefits of social media.
4 gün önce dislike rekoru kırdığı yayında takipçi sayısıyla övünen Erdoğan, bugün sosyal medyayı kapatmak istediklerini açıkladı. pic.twitter.com/JG0a1XhzJZ— Yol TV (@YolTV) July 1, 2020
Erdogan's livestream with young people ahead of last weekend’s university entrance examinations saw a flood of comments as discontent youth logged on to dislike the video and tell the president that they would not vote for his ruling AKP.
The video, posted on Erdoğan’s YouTube channel, currently has nearly 400,000 dislikes.
Since 2017, over 245,000 web sites have been blocked in Turkey, with Twitter and Youtube facing temporary blocks of their own, according to data from Istanbul-based Freedom of Expression Society.
In January, Turkey lifted an over two-year ban on Wikipedia.